First Advisor

Melissa Wong

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Health Studies: Health Sciences and University Honors


Health Studies




Pancreatic duct -- Diseases -- Diagnosis, Pancreas -- Cancer -- Diagnosis, Tumors, Biochemical markers, Medical screening




Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an extremely deadly disease with a dismal long-term prognosis. Currently there is an 8% 5-year survival rate for PDAC patients, which is due in part to a lack of early detection methods (Siegal et al, 2017). Notably, the majority of patients present with late stage disease, when therapeutic treatment is not effective. Novel biomarkers that can facilitate early detection of PDAC are needed to catch cancer earlier when there are more treatment options. Our laboratory has identified an overlooked population of tumor cells in the peripheral blood of cancer patients across all stages of disease. These cells are fusion hybrids between macrophages and pancreatic tumor cells, and harbor properties of both parental cell types—these cells are called circulating hybrid cells (CHCs). CHCs express the epithelial protein cytokeratin (CK) and the pan-leukocyte epitope, CD45. We have determined their existence in greater numbers compared to conventionally-defined circulating tumor cells (CTCs) that express CK, but not CD45 in cancer patients. In addition, we identified CHCs in patients with precursor pathologies or precursor lesions across all different stages of PDAC, leading us to expect that specific protein expression across the disease axis could increase specificity of CHCs in an early detection assay. To support this, I will test the hypothesis that distinct protein expression defines different stages of disease in the pancreatic cancer continuum. In utilizing a disease-specific tissue microarray, and antibodies recognizing discrete proteins identified with immunofluorescence, I differentiated states of pancreatic epithelium from normal, pancreatitis, pre-cancer (PanIN1, PanIN2, PanIN3), and cancer.


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"An undergraduate honors thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Science in University Honors, Health Sciences, and Biology"

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