Sufferers of pancreatic cancer, a disease hard to find and even harder to treat, will have new medical options thanks to genomic sequencing, Australian researchers announced Friday.
The Australian Pancreatic Genome Initiative, assisted by researchers from the University of Western Australia, led an international programme determined to understand the cancer better and increase the five-year survival rate that currently is just five percent.
Pancreatic cancer remains one of the most lethal of malignancies. Early diagnosis is rare as symptoms are rarely specific to the disease, and thus it kills 75 percent of patients within 12 months of diagnosis.
The research, published in esteemed science journal Nature Thursday, examined the variations in the genome present in 100 pancreatic adenocarcinomas, the type most frequently diagnosed.
This allowed the cancers to be further divided into four categories: stable, locally rearranged, scattered and unstable.
Several of the cancers were also found to have mutations amenable to treatment with drugs used for other cancers, and not at present for pancreatic cancer. In addition, two novel gene mutations were observed which may offer leads for new approaches to treatment.
Adjunct associate professor Nikolajs Zeps of the University of Western Australia said Friday the study was a good illustration of the power of biobanks linked to genomic sequencing and he praised his collaborators in Sydney and Queensland.
"The work of (lead author) Nicola Waddell and her colleagues is particularly important because it has for the first time revealed clear markers that will be useful in selecting more appropriate therapies for patients with pancreatic cancer," Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying in a press statement.
"The next steps will be to use these genetic signatures as the basis for new clinical trials aimed at alleviating the suffering from this cancer."