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3rd November 2017

Four genes linked to pancreatic cancer

Researchers have identified four genes responsible for how long patients survive with pancreatic cancer.


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Alterations in four main genes are responsible for how long patients survive with pancreatic cancer, according to a new study in JAMA Oncology.

Until now, the presence and patterns between the genes and disease progression was not clearly established. One key difference in this study is the relatively large size: it involved 356 patients, all with pancreatic adenocarcinoma (by far the most common type of pancreas tumour) that could be surgically removed. Ninety of the patients were treated at the University of Rochester Medical Center's Wilmot Cancer Institute; the others at Dana Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center in Boston and Stanford Cancer Institute.

In all cases after the tumours were removed, scientists extracted DNA from the cancerous tissue and nearby normal tissue, and conducted next-generation DNA sequencing on the specimens.

The analysis centred on the activity of the KRAS, CDKN2A, SMAD4, and TP53 genes. Results showed that patients who had three or four of the altered genes had worse disease-free survival (time between surgery and when the cancer returns), and overall survival (from surgery to death), compared to patients with a single or two altered genes.

"This research helps us to understand how the molecular features of pancreatic cancer impact prognosis on an individual level and gives us more facts to guide patients, and importantly, to design future research studies," said study co-author Aram Hezel, M.D., a gastrointestinal cancer expert.

Pancreatic cancer is aggressive and generally has poor survival odds. Patients who can undergo surgery as part of treatment often survive longer and some patients fare best when they can receive chemotherapy prior to surgery. But having customised, molecular information will provide an even greater understanding of how the disease is likely to progress in each patient.


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