Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook



 

New genetic links to pancreatic cancer discovered

20 February 2017

By Jamie Rickman

Appeared in BioNews 889

Researchers have used whole-genome sequencing to uncover new mutations responsible for a rare type of pancreatic cancer.

Nearly all patients with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PanNETs) studied had no family history of disease, but the scientists found a clear genetic predisposition. They were also able to link PanNETs to genes associated with other cancers.

'In the future, patients at risk of this rare pancreatic cancer could be identifiable through genetic screening,' said the study co-leader Dr Nicola Waddell, QIMR Berghofer, Australia. There is currently no reliable test for pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer affects 1 in 71 people. The Australian team studied 102 patients diagnosed with PanNETs, which account for five percent of pancreatic tumours. The symptoms of PanNETs can be difficult to detect and diagnosis is often in the late stages; mortality rates are 60 percent.

The researchers looked for genetic mutations in tumour cells and also in somatic cells of the body that reveal germline mutations, which are heritable. Previously it was thought only five percent of PanNET tumours were linked to heritable genes, but the researchers found that a surprisingly high proportion of the mutations (17 percent) were linked to germline mutations. Mutations were associated with genes involved in DNA repair, cell proliferation, cell survival and cell ageing; processes almost universally disrupted in cancer.

The researchers were also surprised to find PanNETs could be linked to gene mutations known to predispose individuals to other cancers.

Professor Sean Grimmond of the University of Melbourne, co-leader of the study, said: 'We found that the MUTYH and BRCA2 gene mutations, normally associated with colon and breast cancers, also appear to play an important role in PanNETs… This raises exciting possibilities for how we treat this disease in the future.'

PanNETS are highly unpredictable and determining the appropriate treatment is a challenge. The researchers say that exploring the 'genomic landscape' of PanNETs, could help clinicians decide on the best therapy for an individual, potentially saving patients from unnecessary, aggressive treatments. The findings could also be used to identify people at risk of these cancers.

The patients were recruited via the International Cancer Genome Consortium, and the Australian team collaborated with researchers from the US and Europe. Professor Andrew Biankin, director of translational research at the University of Glasgow and co-lead of the study, said: 'This study is a great example of International Team Science… We managed to overcome all the societal hurdles of data and material sharing to make significant findings in an uncommon cancer type that can be difficult to treat.'

The study was published in the journal Nature.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
SBS News | 16 February 2017
 
Financial Express | 16 February 2017
 
Medical Xpress (Press release) | 16 February 2017
 
Huffington Post Australia | 16 February 2017
 
Nature | 15 February 2017
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

07 March 2016 - by Kulraj Singh Bhangra 
A collaboration between scientists from around the world has identified four subtypes of pancreatic cancer...
29 October 2012 - by Rivka Marks-Maran 
Thousands of genetic mutations associated with pancreatic cancer have been identified in an international study...
18 December 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
An international team of researchers has discovered that an altered version of a gene called Palladin causes an inherited form of pancreatic cancer. The findings, published online in the journal PloS Medicine, also reveal that the same gene is involved in sporadic cases of the disease...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Andy Greenfield

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Henry Malter

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross

Sandy Starr


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation