(NBC News) Pancreatic cancer can be a silent killer. It comes on without warning and many patients are diagnosed so late it's impossible to save their lives.
Now scientists are reporting early but exciting research that could some day lead to earlier diagnosis.
Scientists at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas say a biomarker found in blood tests appears to signal the presence of cancer hidden in the pancreas, an organ notoriously difficult to see in CT Scans.
The biomarker is not elevated in healthy people or in those who have pancreatitis, a benign inflammation of the pancreas.
While larger studies are needed, outside experts say this is some of the most promising research in pancreatic cancer to date.
"I think these guys have nailed it," says Dr. Derek Raghavan of the Levine Cancer Institute. "My only cautionary note is they just need to do some more patients to be quite sure. It's very cool science."