Pancreatic cancer is one of the worst forms of cancer to have, with only one in five of those diagnosed with the illness still alive at the one-year mark.
Pancreatic cancer is also known sometimes as a “silent killer,” due to the fact that many of the symptoms of the disease are not detectable by sufferers until the cancer is relatively advanced. Some pancreatic cancer symptoms, like diabetes and depression, are also not commonly identified as symptoms of an underlying serious medical condition and rather treated as conditions directly.
And while risk factors for pancreatic cancer include diet, smoking and co-morbid conditions, genes also play a role in the progression of the disease. A new study published in the journal Nature has broken significant ground in understanding the specific role of genetic factors in the progression of pancreatic cancer, and could lead to new drugs developed to battle the condition among sufferers.
Scientists in Britain have pinpointed a gene named USP9X while studying pancreatic cancer in mice, and also learned that the gene is important when it comes to pancreatic cancer in humans. Professor David Tuveson of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute explained:
“We looked in human tumor specimens and we found that it was missing in a fraction of patients – the patients that did very poorly… the people who died the fastest. Patients that had a low level of the gene expressed… they died very quickly after their operation and the patients who at the end of their life had lots of metastasis, they had also a very low level of this protein.”
Scientists believe that up to 15% of pancreatic cancer could be due to the gene “turning off” in sufferers.