A large DNA analysis of people with and without pancreatic cancer has identified several new genetic markers that signal increased risk of developing the highly lethal disease, report scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (http://www.dana-farber.org/) in Boston. The markers are variations in the inherited DNA code at particular locations along chromosomes. Several of these variations in the DNA code were identified that influence an individual's risk for pancreatic cancer. The discovery of these markers – along with four that were previously identified is important for several reasons, said Brian Wolpin, M.D., M.P.H, first author of the report published online on August 3, 2014 by Nature Genetics. One is that further study of these DNA variants may help explain on the molecular level why some people are more or less susceptible to pancreatic cancer than the average person. A second is the potential to identify people at increased risk who then might be candidates to undergo MRI or ultrasound scanning to look for early, treatable pancreatic tumors. "Currently there is no population screening program for pancreatic cancer, which in 80 percent of cases is discovered when it's too late to allow curative surgery – the cancer has already spread," said Dr. Wolpin. The only healthy individuals currently screened for pancreatic cancer are members of high-risk families due to multiple family members with pancreatic cancer. "But the field has been struggling to find factors that can identify people at highest risk in the general population, when a strong family history is not present," Dr. Wolpin said. The study findings represent analyses of DNA from 7,683 patients with pancreatic cancer and 14,397 control patients without this cancer, all of European descent, from the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia.
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