Unmasking pancreatic cancer secrets

The complexity of genetic mutations responsible for pancreatic cancer means patients may need individual diagnoses and treatments, Australian research shows.

Garvan pancreatic Biankin

Professor Biankin

Researchers investigating the genetic drivers behind pancreatic cancer have found many variations in tumours, suggesting patients who seemingly have the same cancer might need to be treated differently.

Professor Andrew Biankin, from The Kinghorn Cancer Centre at Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research and a conjoint professor at UNSW, helped lead an international team of more than 100 researchers.

The team sequenced the genomes of 100 pancreatic tumours and compared them to normal tissue to determine the genetic changes that led to the cancer. The findings are reported in the journal Nature.

The analysis represents the first report from Australia’s contribution to the International Cancer Genome Consortium, which brings together the world’s leading scientists to identify the genetic drivers behind 50 different cancer types.

Professor Biankin says individual genetic diagnoses and treatments are the future of healthcare.

“In this study, we found a set of genes, the axon guidance pathway, that is frequently damaged in pancreatic cancer patients and is associated with a potentially poorer outcome for those patients,” Professor Biankin says.

“It is a new marker of pancreatic cancer that can be used to direct prognosis and treatments.”

Professor Biankin led the study jointly with Professor Sean Grimmond from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland.

See the full media release here and the study here.

Media contact: Alison Heather I Science Communications Manager, Garvan Institute of Medical Research 0434 071 326, 02 9295 8128