Researchers have found that pancreatic cancer can be split into four unique types, a discovery that could be used to improve treatments for the disease, according to a study published in the February 26, 2015 issue of Nature. The article was titled “Whole Genomes Redefine the Mutational Landscape of Pancreatic Cancer’. Nature.” An international team of scientists, including Cancer Research UK researchers, found that these four types were created when large chunks of DNA are shuffled around. The team also identified the genes that could be damaged in this way. These four disease types are based on the extent of the cancer’s genetic shuffling, with the tumors classified depending on the frequency, location, and types of DNA rearrangements. This shuffling of chunks of DNA causes genetic chaos with genes deleted, wrongly switched on and off, or entirely new versions being created. The four subgroups were classified as having DNA that was stable, locally rearranged, scattered, or unstable. Among the genetic faults found are some that could potentially be targeted with existing drugs. Study co-lead, Professor Andrew Biankin, a Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Glasgow, said: “Despite many decades of research into pancreatic cancer we have faced numerous obstacles in finding new and effective treatments. But our crucial study sheds light on how the chaotic chromosomal rearrangements cause a huge range of genetic faults that are behind the disease and provide opportunities for more personalized pancreatic cancer treatment.” The study also suggests which pancreatic cancer patients may benefit from platinum-based drugs – these are commonly used chemotherapy treatments, typically used for testicular or ovarian cancer.
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