Researchers from the University of Glasgow have found that pancreatic disease is actually comprised of four separate diseases. It is thought that this finding could help in the search for better treatment and diagnosis of this often-deadly ailment.
Currently 8,800 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK every year. Of these, approximately 80% die within a year and 96% within five years of diagnosis. An early diagnosis is usually key in improving cancer survival rates, however pancreatic cancer is particularly difficult to diagnose due to its location within the body. By the time one experiences symptoms, the cancer has usually metastasised to other parts of the body. Furthermore, treatment options are not particularly successful – the chemotherapeutic methods used are typically general and unselective.
The researchers, led by Professor Sean Grimmond, looked at the genomes of pancreatic tumours from 456 people and found that it was possible to categorise the disease into one of four sub-types; squamous, pancreatic progenitor, immunogenic and ADEX. 10 genetic pathways responsible for the transformation normal pancreatic tissue into cancerous tumours were also found, many of which were also applicable to other cancers such as those of the bladder or lung.
The revelation could mean more targeted treatment for sufferers of the disease and hence a better prognosis. Some strains of the disease were associated with mutations normally linked to colon cancer or leukaemia, for which experimental drugs are being used to treat. The study could therefore be the first step in the long road to improving survival rates.
For the press release, see here.
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