Authors: Emily Brown, Future Science Group
A paper published online recently in Nature Genetics has described the identification of several new genetic markers that indicate an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. This discovery is the result of a large genetic analysis carried out in healthy individuals and pancreatic cancer patients, coordinated by scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (MA, USA).
This investigation employed sequencing technology to analyze 700,000 sites of the genome known to contain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 7683 patients with pancreatic cancer and 14,397 control individuals. The study, termed a genome-wide association study, aimed to identify genetic variants that were associated with pancreatic cancer risk.
The results of the investigation both confirmed the presence of four SNPs that had previously been identified as being associated with pancreatic cancer risk and detailed five new risk markers, along with a sixth that was of borderline statistical significance.
“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,” commented Brian Wolpin of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “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.”
The risk associated with each identified SNP is said to be largely independent and additive, and in future they could be utilized to screen individuals for pancreatic cancer risk in primary care practice.