Scientists find a new way to detect pancreatic cancer early

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In a new study from Johns Hopkins, researchers found promising new targets for pancreatic cancer treatment and early diagnosis after examining various aspects of these tumors’ genes and proteins.

Their findings could offer hope to patients with this deadly disease.

Despite decades of study, pancreatic cancer has remained a grim diagnosis.

Because of its lack of symptoms and dearth of reliable and effective methods for screening and early detection, the vast majority of patients are diagnosed at a late stage when surgery isn’t possible, leading to an extremely poor prognosis.

Although numerous studies have examined the genes of pancreatic tumors and identified several mutations linked to this disease, these mutations cannot be targeted with drug therapies.

In the study, the team took a new look at pancreatic tumors from several different angles.

They compared 140 tumor samples with 67 samples of normal adjacent pancreatic tissue from the same patients, and with nine samples of pancreatic tissue from patients who did not have cancer.

The team looked at the whole genome, DNA coding sequences, modifications to DNA that turn certain genes on or off, messenger RNA molecules to which the information in the DNA is transferred, and micro RNAs that regulate gene expression.

The team confirmed that pancreatic tumors are more likely to have mutations in several genes identified in previous studies, including KRAS, TP53, CDKN2A and SMAD4.

In addition, they identified 222 proteins with at least a twofold increase in abundance between pancreatic cancerous cells and normal cells.

Several of these proteins are secreted from pancreatic cancer cells, suggesting they could potentially be captured in the blood for early diagnosis.

There are several small molecule inhibitors offering a potential path toward treating pancreatic tumors, which are still under test.

Other protein differences between the cancer cells and normal tissue appear to be roadblocks that stymie immune system attack, suggesting new ways to improve immune response to these tumors.

This study could aid the search for new ways to improve pancreatic cancer detection and treatment far into the future.

If you care about pancreatic cancer, please read studies about what drives the most common pancreatic cancer and findings of a new way to treat pancreatic cancer.

For more information about pancreatic cancer and your health, please see recent studies about a new therapy may trigger self-destruction of pancreatic cancer and results showing that this heartburn drug linked to higher risk of pancreatic cancer.

The study is published in Cell. One author of the study is Hui Zhang, Ph.D.

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