Pancreatic cancer genes ID'd in most accurate study to date

ANN ARBOR, MI Being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is like receiving a death sentence -- one that, for many patients, is carried out within weeks or months of their cancer's discovery. Less than 20 percent of patients are diagnosed in time to qualify for the only known cure an arduous operation and only 3 percent of all patients live even five years.

But a team of researchers from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center hopes to overturn that death sentence, through studies that zero in on the genes and proteins that help pancreatic cancer grow and spread.

In a new paper in the journal Cancer Research, and through work funded by a $2.36 million grant received last week, as well as a new patient care program, the team aims to find new ways to improve diagnosis and treatment of the deadly disease.

In the paper, published May 15, the team reports finding 158 genes specific to pancreatic cancer the most accurate list to date. They used tissue samples that had been swiftly processed after being removed from patients, to preserve fragile molecules that act as telltale signatures for genes that are "turned on" or expressed.

Unlike other scientists, the U-M team was able to distinguish genes involved in cancer from those involved in a chronic inflammatory disease, pancreatitis, that's often mistaken for cancer. Both diseases produce similar scar tissue around the pear-shaped pancreas gland, which produces insulin, hormones and digestive juices. The team narrowed the list of genes down to 80 that were expressed three times more often in pancreatic cancer cells than in non-cancerous or pancreatitis cells.

As a result, the U-M team believes its results will be more applicable to making specific diagnostic tests and effective treatments. The new paper even reports their success in identifying and detecting four of the proteins 14-3-3-sigma, S100P, S100A6, Beta-4 integrin that are encoded by the cancer-specific gen

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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