Gene mutation 'could signify higher pancreatic cancer risk'

3 January 2012

Changes to a gene could increase the risk of hereditary pancreatic cancer, it has been revealed.

According to data published in the journal Cancer Discovery from the American Association for Cancer Research, mutations of the ATM gene may heighten the possibility of developing cancer of the pancreas, which is one of the hardest forms of the disease to detect in its early stages.

Lead author Alison Klein, associate professor of oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins and director of the National Familial Pancreas Tumour Registry, said: "We had not, to this point, been able to find the causative genes that explained the cluster of pancreatic cancer for a majority of these families."

Figures included in the study showed that less than five per cent of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive up to five years and that approximately ten per cent of sufferers come from families with a history of the disease.

Professor Klein and fellow researchers looked into gene sequencing and the whole genome to find mutations of the ATM gene were more prevalent in families.

According to Macmillan Cancer Support, the most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer are pain in the upper abdomen, weight loss and jaundice.

Posted by Philip Briggs

Klein, A., et al., "ATM Mutations in Patients with Hereditary Pancreatic Cancer", Cancer Discovery, December 29th 2011.

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