DURHAM, N.C.-- Researchers report finding a strong and surprising association between the gene that causes cystic fibrosis and a debilitating form of pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas.
Duke University Medical Center gastroenterologist Dr. Jonathan Cohn, who led the research team, said the main point of the study "is that many patients carrying a diagnosis of unexplained chronic pancreatitis have a disease where genetics plays a major and previously unsuspected role. This finding introduces a new concept about how chronic pancreatitis develops and it will change how physicians treat patients with this condition."
The researchers from Duke, the Durham VAMC and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill published the results of their study Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
The most striking feature of chronic pancreatitis is severe, often incapacitating, abdominal pain. About two-thirds of the estimated 100,000 cases of chronic pancreatitis in the United States are caused by heavy alcohol use. However, chronic pancreatitis also strikes patients who are not drinkers, and in almost all these cases, the cause is unknown, or idiopathic.
The new study shows that in many patients with idiopathic chronic pancreatitis, there is a genetic explanation for their condition, the researchers said.
The gene involved in these cases of idiopathic pancreatitis is the same
as the gene that causes cystic fibrosis. The classic features of cystic
fibrosis include severe lung disease, abnormal sweat production and pancreatic
insufficiency. The research team conducted extensive genetic analysis of 27
patients referred to Duke with idiopathic chronic pa
Contact: Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center