Tumours are a lot like earthquakes. No two are the same, and just as quakes occur mostly along fault lines, scientists have discovered that tumours also have unstable regions hidden inside their genomes.
An Australian-led research group has conducted the most thorough analysis of pancreatic cancers, identifying four subgroups that differentiate tumours by their gene arrangements.
The discovery promises to improve the treatment of at least one group, about one in four patients, after the 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.
Their hunch appeared correct when they discovered four out of five study patients with this genetic signature responded to DNA-damaging drugs.
“Two of them had an exceptional response, which happens very, very rarely in pancreatic cancer. Their tumours went away completely,” said the co-leader of the group, Andrew Biankin, who conducted the work at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.
The results, published in the science journal Nature, represent one of most significant advances in pancreatic cancer – the fourth most common cause of cancer death – in 50 years
*credit verbatim via The Sydney Morning Herald and Nicky Phillips*