Study finds new genetic risk markers in pancreatic cancer

Aug. 6, 2014

A large DNA analysis of people with and without pancreatic cancer has identified several new genetic markers that signal increased risk of developing the highly lethal disease, report scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The markers are variations in the inherited DNA code at particular locations along chromosomes. Several of these variations were identified that influence an individual’s risk for pancreatic cancer.

The discovery of these markers, along with four that were previously identified, is important for several reasons, says Brian Wolpin, MD, MPH, first author of the report published online byNature Genetics. One is that further study of these DNA variants may help explain on the molecular level why some people are more or less susceptible to pancreatic cancer than the average person. A second is the potential to identify people at increased risk who then might be candidates to undergo MRI or ultrasound scanning to look for early, treatable pancreatic tumors.

The study findings represent analyses of DNA from 7,683 patients with pancreatic cancer and 14,397 control patients, all of European descent, from the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia. The scientists used sequencing technology to examine more than 700,000 sites of the genome known to have single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)—differing versions of a single letter of DNA code. These variations can alter the expression of a gene or the content of its message, and the researchers looked for variants that were associated with the risk of having pancreatic cancer. Research of this type is called a genome-wide association study (GWAS).

Wolpin says the results confirmed the presence of four risk-associated SNPs that had been identified in a previous, smaller GWAS. In addition, five new risk markers were discovered, along with a sixth that was of borderline statistical significance. Read the article preview.

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