Pancreatic Cancer Is Actually 4 Different Diseases

A new genomic analysis of over 450 pancreatic tumors reveals that the cancer may be more accurately classified as four different diseases, each with its own characteristics and survival rates.

This insight provides potential new avenues for treatment, as patients and doctors may one day be able to customize targeted treatments based on the type of pancreatic cancer they have.

Four distinct subcategories of the disease were identified by researchers from the Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research: squamous, pancreatic progenitor, immunogenic and aberrantly differentiated endocrine exocrine, or ADEX.

“We have previously shown that pancreatic cancer is not one disease but several — but now we have identified distinct subgroups in detail, along with the genetic drivers that underpin them,” said researcher Amber Johns in a statement.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers in the world. Because the pancreas is deep inside the abdomen, behind the stomach, cancer is often not felt or caught until the late stages of the disease, when the tumors have spread to other organs. Its location also makes surgery difficult, as surgeons have to make a long incision in order to reach it.

There is no screening test that has been proven to catch tumors early and increase survival rates of the disease. Because of the difficulty detecting and treating pancreatic cancer, the approach to the disease hasn’t really changed in about 40 years, notes the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. Less than five percent of people diagnosed with the disease live for more than five years. In contrast, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 89.4 percent.

This new understanding of pancreatic cancer has the potential to “take —> Read More