Pancreatic Cancer is ‘Four Separate Diseases’

The researchers found some types of pancreatic cancer have genetic mutations typically seen in colon cancer and leukemia, for which treatments are already available.

Researchers who have carried out detailed analysis of gene expression, molecular pathways, and DNA disruption in hundreds of tumours, have concluded that pancreatic cancer is not one disease, but actually four separate diseases, and that each one has a different genetic trigger and requires different treatment.

According to researchers, knowing which pancreatic cancer a patient has will allow doctors to give more accurate prognoses and treatment recommendations.

These results have also raised the possibility of being able to treat certain types of pancreatic cancer with cancer drugs already used to treat other cancer with similar underlying genetics.

Prof. Sean Grimmond of the University of Melbourne, Australia, and who also leads research based at the University of Glasgow in the UK,  explained that the team classified pancreatic cancer into the following four sub-types:

  • Squamous
  • Pancreatic progenitor
  • Immunogenic
  • Aberrantly differentiated endocrine eXocrine (ADEX)

Prof. Grimmond went on to explain, “We identified 32 genes from 10 genetic pathways that are consistently mutated in pancreatic tumours, but further analysis of gene activity revealed four distinct sub-types of tumours.

According to the study, each sub-type of pancreatic cancer has different survival rates and underlying genetics, and requires different treatments.

The study addresses an urgent need to improve our understanding of the causes of pancreatic cancer – particularly at the genetic and molecular level. Pancreatic cancer is currently fatal within a few months of diagnosis and is set to become the second most common cancer in the westernised world within the next 10 years.

The team analysed the genomes of 456 pancreatic tumours to identify the underlying genetic and molecular processes that go wrong inside cells when normal pancreatic tissue changes into aggressive cancer, and made some very unexpected discoveries.

integrated genomic analysis

click to enlarge

The study found that some types of pancreatic cancer have mutations typically seen in leukaemia and colon cancer, for which there are already treatments available.

Other types of pancreatic cancer bear strong similarities to some bladder and lung cancers, says Prof. Grimmond, “and we can start to draw on that knowledge to improve treatments.”

The team used an approach called “integrated genomic analysis,”  bringing together techniques that analyse not only genetic code, but also variations in structure and gene activity and say that this is the first time such an analysis revealed such a huge amount regarding the genetic damage that leads to pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Peter Bailey, first author, also based both at the University of Melbourne and the University of Glasgow, says the treatments for pancreatic cancer have not changed much in the last 20 years. “There are various types of chemotherapy, but it is not very selective, “it’s like hitting the disease with a mallet with your eyes closed,” he notes.

Leanne Reynolds, head of research for Pancreatic Cancer UK, says: “The findings of this research are incredibly exciting for anyone affected by pancreatic cancer, as they should mean that in the future the right patients can be given the right treatment at the right time.”

This study builds on earlier work by the team as part of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC).





About LFCT

This is a blog about CHILDHOOD CANCER and CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS Little Fighters Cancer Trust is a non-profit organisation that offers support and aid to Children with Cancer and their families. When a child is diagnosed with cancer it affects the whole family. One of the parents, usually the mother, must give up their job to care for the child and this creates financial problems for the family. In South Africa especially the majority of these families are not well-to-do; many of them are rural. A diagnosis of cancer can wipe out any family’s finances, let alone a poor family. The costs of special medications, special diets, hospital stays, transport to and from the hospital or clinic and accommodation and food costs for the mother who spends most of the time at her child’s bedside are astronomical. These are the people and problems that fall through the cracks, and these are the people that Little Fighters Cancer Trust has pledged to help in any way possible. LFCT takes a holistic approach to assisting the Children with Cancer and their Families, with the main aim to be the preservation of individual dignity and pride. Little Fighters Cancer Trust also focuses on promotion and advocacy of National Childhood Cancer Awareness in an effort to increase awareness of Early Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer. This would result in earlier diagnosis, giving the Child with Cancer more of a chance at Treatment and Survival. See "About" for more Background info

Posted on 4 March, 2016, in Blog, Research and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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