Pancreatic cancer 'should be considered as four separate diseases'

26 February 2016

A new study has indicated that the condition currently known solely as pancreatic cancer could actually consist of four distinct diseases.

An international team led by Australian researchers made the discovery after studying the genomes of 456 pancreatic tumours, in order to find out more about the core processes that are damaged when normal pancreatic tissues turn cancerous.

It was found that 32 genes from 10 genetic pathways were consistently mutated in pancreatic tumours, with further analysis of gene activity indicating four distinct subtypes. Each of these had different survival rates, treatments and underlying genetics.

This is a potentially important discovery, as it could make it easier to develop new therapeutic options specifically tailored to the genetic profiles of each form of the disease.

It was noted that some strains of pancreatic cancer were associated with mutations normally linked with colon cancer or leukaemia, while others were more similar to bladder and lung cancer. As such, approaches for treating these conditions could prove useful.

Professor Sean Grimmond of the University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research said: "Knowing which subtype a patient has would allow a doctor to provide a more accurate prognosis and treatment recommendations."

Posted by Edward Bartel


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