MAR 03, 2015 4:39 PM PST

Pancreatic Cancer Subtypes Could Guide Future Treatments

WRITTEN BY: Ilene Schneider
Scientists from Australia and the UK have completed the most comprehensive analysis yet of pancreatic cancer, in a study that could improve future treatments.

The international study has revealed four subtypes of the disease.

The research team was led by Professor Sean Grimmond from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience and Professor Andrew Biankin from Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the University of New South Wales, and included bioinformatician Dr Nicola Waddell from Brisbane's QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

Attacking pancreatic cancer

The analysis used a technique called whole genome sequencing to determine the complete genetic code of pancreatic tumors in 100 patients, with the data published in Nature.

The team identified and mapped detailed patterns of ‘structural variation' to reveal the extensive and damaging genetic changes that drive the formation of four cancer subtypes.

Professor Grimmond said this gave researchers a deeper understanding of the complex genomic landscape of pancreatic cancer.

"Whole genome sequencing gave us unprecedented access to explore the history of each patient's genome, including how their genes and chromosomes had rearranged and accumulated damage over time," he said.

The identification of four different subtypes meant there was potential to treat each type differently.

"Having access to these detailed genetic maps could help doctors in the future determine which chemotherapy drug a patient should get, based on their cancer's genome."

QIMR Berghofer bioinformatician Dr Nicola Waddell (formerly of UQ IMB) said pancreatic cancer remained one of the most complex cancers to treat.

"Our study identified four major genomic subtypes in pancreatic cancer, revealed two new driver genes not previously associated with pancreatic cancer, and reaffirmed the importance of five key genes.

"These findings could prove promising in diagnosing and treating the disease in future."

Professor Biankin and Professor Grimmond plan to conduct a clinical trial in the UK, selecting patients for targeted treatments based on genomic testing.

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer death in Australia.

Source: University of Queensland
About the Author
  • Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
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