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Genetic Mutations Found in Deadly Cancers

Discovery in pancreatic cancer may yield treatment approach; glioblastoma findings also of value

MONDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Comprehensive genomic analyses have uncovered genetic alterations in pancreatic and brain cancer that may point the way toward treatments for the diseases, according to research from a pair of articles published online Sept. 4 in Science, and another published online Sept. 4 in Nature.

In the pancreatic cancer study, Sian Jones of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore, and colleagues report on their analysis of 24 pancreatic cancer samples, in which they assessed more than 20,000 protein-encoding genes for mutations. The tumors contained an average of 63 genetic alterations, which defined a core set of 12 signaling pathways and processes found to be altered in 67 to 100 percent of the tumors. These were associated with control of DNA damage, cell maturation and regulation of invasion.

In the other study, D. Williams Parsons, M.D., Ph.D., of the Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore, and colleagues report on their analysis of 20,661 protein coding genes in 22 samples of glioblastoma multiforme tumors. Twelve percent of patients had mutations in the active site of isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1), which wasn't previously associated with the disease. These mutations occurred more often in younger patients and in patients with secondary glioblastoma multiforme. In the Nature study, Matthew Meyerson, M.D., Ph.D., of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and colleagues discuss their findings of mutations in NF1, ERBB2 and PIK3R1 in glioblastoma patients.

"Unlike certain forms of leukemia, in which tumorigenesis appears to be driven by a single, targetable oncogene, pancreatic cancers result from genetic alterations of a large number of genes that function through a relatively small number of pathways and processes. Our studies suggest that the best hope for therapeutic development may lie in the discovery of agents that target the physiologic effects of the altered pathways and processes rather than their individual gene components," Jones and colleagues write.

Several authors of the Science studies disclosed stock holdings, as well as potential royalty issues relevant to the research.

Abstract - Jones
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Abstract - Parsons
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Abstract - Meyerson
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