Pancreatic cancer is a highly malignant digestive system tumor with a poor prognosis. Most pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage or even metastasis due to its highly aggressive characteristics and lack of typical early symptoms. Thus, an early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is crucial for improving its prognosis. Currently, screening is often applied in high-risk individuals to achieve the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Fully understanding the risk factors of pancreatic cancer and pathogenesis could help us identify the high-risk population and achieve early diagnosis and timely treatment of pancreatic cancer. Notably, accumulating studies have been undertaken to improve the detection rate of different imaging methods and the diagnostic accuracy of endoscopic ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration (EUS-FNA) which is the golden standard for pancreatic cancer diagnosis. In addition, there are currently no biomarkers with sufficient sensitivity and specificity for the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer to be applied in the clinic. As the only serum biomarker approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA19-9) is not recommended to be used in the early screening of pancreatic cancer because of its limited specificity. Recently, increasing numbers of studies focused on the discovering of novel serum biomarkers and exploring their combination with CA19-9 in the detection of pancreatic cancer. Besides, the application of liquid biopsy involving circulating tumor cells (CTCs), circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), microRNAs (miRNAs), and exosomes in blood and biomarkers in urine, and saliva in pancreatic cancer diagnosis are drawing more and more attention. Furthermore, many innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, computer-aided diagnosis system, metabolomics technology, ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) associated technologies, and novel nanomaterials have been tested for the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and have shown promising prospects. Hence, this review aims to summarize the recent progress in the development of early screening and diagnostic methods, including imaging, pathological examination, serological examination, liquid biopsy, as well as other potential diagnostic strategies for pancreatic cancer.
© 2021 The Authors. Cancer Communications published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd. on behalf of Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center.