Original Mutation to Pancreatic Cancer May Take 10 Years

Distant metastases occur late in this process, opening window of diagnostic opportunity

THURSDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Genomic sequencing of metastatic pancreatic cancers along with mathematical modeling suggests that there is a 10- to 15-year time period in which to find and destroy malignant pancreatic cells before the cancer becomes advanced, according to research published online Oct. 27 in Nature.

Shinichi Yachida, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, and colleagues performed rapid autopsies of seven patients with end-stage pancreatic cancer to obtain tissue samples of the original tumor mass and metastatic deposits. The purpose of the study was to sequence the genomes of these tissues to evaluate the clonal relationships between the primary and metastatic cancers.

The researchers found that the genetic heterogeneity of the metastatic tissue was reflective of that within the primary carcinoma. Quantitative analysis of the timing of the genetic evolution revealed at least a 10-year interval between the initiating mutation and the parental, non-metastatic founder cell, an additional five years before the index lesion forms, and then about two years until death of the individual from metastatic disease.

"These data provide novel insights into the genetic features underlying pancreatic cancer progression and define a broad time window of opportunity for early detection to prevent deaths from metastatic disease," the authors write.

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Lindsey Marcellin

Lindsey Marcellin

Updated on October 28, 2010

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