A genetic test developed by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Pittsburgh Liver Research Center and partially supported by the 2016 IPM Pilot Program in precision medicine has been published this week in the journal Gut. The test known as ‘Biliseq’ assesses bile duct cacners for actionable genetic markers.

So far, researchers have tested samples from 252 patients with bile duct cancer, and 8% of them had genetic markers that existing Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs can target directly.

“With BiliSeq, we can detect neoplasms involving the bile duct early and actionable alterations quickly, to decrease the time to appropriate management. This could include surgery or chemotherapy targeted to the specific alteration found in the tumor,” said lead author Dr. Aatur Singhi, assistant professor of pathology at Pitt.

The hope is to catch bile duct cancer earlier while patients have the most options and the best prognosis. If the cancer hasn’t spread beyond the liver, doctors can either surgically remove the tumor or transplant a healthy liver in its place, which more than doubles the odds of a patient surviving past five years, Singhi said. Right now, fewer than 8% of patients with inoperable bile duct cancer survive beyond five years of their diagnosis.

The test is now available for clinical use for patients seen at UPMC and other medical institutions and has already had profound effects for indiviadual patients with liver cancers as recently reported by UPMC news.