Scientists Identify Rare Liver Cancer’s Genetic Pathway; Asians More Vulnerable and Asian Patients Show Different Mutational Profile

An international research team, including four Simon Fraser University (SFU) scientists, has identified the "mutational landscape" of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC), a rare, highly fatal form of liver cancer that disproportionately affects people in Asian countries. SFU molecular biology and biochemistry professor Dr. Jack (Nansheng) Chen and three of his lab members collaborated with Chinese researchers to identify how these mutations affect genes and signalling pathways that might drive the formation of tumors in ICC. The researchers' findings, which were published online on December 15, 2014 in Nature Communications, could potentially lead to earlier and more accurate diagnosis and increased survival rates for patients with the disease, also known as intrahepatic bile duct cancer. ICC accounts for approximately 10 per cent of primary liver malignancies worldwide, but its incidence and mortality rates have been increasing rapidly in recent years. It currently strikes about one in 100,000 people annually in North America but 96 per 100,000 in Thailand. The prognosis for ICC patients is usually poor, as early tumors are undetectable during routine examinations because the bile ducts are deep inside the body, leading to diagnosis only after symptoms develop and the disease has advanced. There are no effective therapies for ICC and the median survival duration is less than six to nine months after diagnosis, according to a recent study in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology. "Our research is by far the most comprehensive sequencing effort to identify mutations associated with ICC and will be an important resource for scientists working to improve understanding and therapy for the disease," says Dr. Chen, who specializes in genomics and bioinformatics.
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