Higher levels of branched-chain amino acids in the blood correlated with a higher risk for pancreatic cancer, according to research published in Gastroenterology.
Ryoko Katagiri of the epidemiology and prevention group at National Cancer Center in Tokyo, and colleagues wrote that a potential biomarker for pancreatic cancer would be significant, considering the expected rise of the cancer in the coming decades.
“The high mortality rate can be improved by early diagnosis; however, most patients are diagnosed at advanced stages,” they wrote. “Although curable, long-lived lesions are observed in the pancreas, early diagnosis is difficult because of the lack of symptoms in the early stages and few available methods or biomarkers for early screening.”
Katagiri and colleagues conducted a case-control study to evaluate the association between plasma levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and the risk for pancreatic cancer.
The Japanese public health center-based prospective study comprised 30,239 patients aged 40 to 69 years. Investigators collected blood samples at health visits between 1990 and 1995 and followed patients for a mean of 16.4 years. They identified 170 new pancreatic cancer diagnoses during the follow-up period.
Researchers matched each case to two controls by age, sex, geographic area and fasting time at blood collection to determine adjusted odds ratios for pancreatic cancer.
Compared with the lowest quartile, patients in the quartile with the highest BCAA concentration had a higher risk for pancreatic cancer (aOR = 2.43; 95% CI, 1.21–4.9) and the OR per 1 standard deviation increase in BCAA levels was 1.32 (95% CI, 1.05–1.67).
This association was stronger among patients whose blood samples were collected at least 10 years before a cancer diagnosis (OR per SD = 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1–2.32) compared with samples taken less than 10 years before a cancer diagnosis (OR per SD = 1.16; 95% CI, 0.86–1.57).
Although the reasons for this association are unclear, Katagiri and colleagues wrote it could be the link between BCAAs and several risk factors for pancreatic cancer, including obesity, deterioration of insulin resistance and development of diabetes.
“The development of such conditions during follow-up might account for the association between BCAA levels and pancreatic cancer risk,” they wrote. “Although we statistically adjusted for baseline BMI, history of diabetes and plasma C-peptide levels, elevated BCAA levels at baseline might have reflected the degree of deterioration of such risk factors for pancreatic cancer after the baseline period.” – by Alex Young
Disclosures: Katagiri reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the full study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.