Researchers from the University of Queensland and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney have unmasked the underlying mutations responsible for pancreatic cancer. The results signify that scientists are a step closer towards personalised medicine and improved treatments of pancreatic cancer.
The ambitious project, led by Professor Sean Grimmond and Professor Andrew Biankin, analysed the entire genomic structure of 100 patients’ tumours, revealing sections where bits of chromosomes had broken away and rearranged themselves.
Scientists have discovered that while no tumours were the same they also have unstable regions hidden inside their genomes. The researchers described it as the equivalent of trying to predict where an earthquake may strike without knowing where the fault lines sit.
Researchers noticed an existing class of chemotherapy drugs used to treat some breast cancers may also work on pancreas patients whose tumours have ‘unstable’ genomes. The breakthrough paves the way for treatment of at least one test group (four out of five study patients with this genetic signature responded to DNA-damaging drugs). “Their tumours went away completely,” said Professor Andrew Biankin.
The results, published in the science journal Nature, represents one of most significant advances in pancreatic cancer – the fourth most common cause of cancer death – in 50 years.
Well done, UQ, and thanks for keeping it clever.