Unshattering Pancreatic Cancer Lessons

Pancreatic cancer with USP9x gene may respond to existing drugs

(RxWiki News) When cancer begins in the pancreas, the outlook can be shattering. That's why new ways of going after this malignancy are so urgently needed. Scientists have found an evasive gene that could lead to new therapies.

A gene that could be involved in up to 15 percent of pancreatic cancers has been IDed. Scientists have shown that USP9x is switched off in this cancer.

Existing drugs may be able to be used to strip away this gene and its ugly work.

"Learn what types of genetic testing may be appropriate for you."

Scientists from Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute found this evasive gene that hasn't been picked up through traditional gene hunting.

USP9x does its work by messing with the chemical tags on the surface of DNA. 

“Drugs which strip away these tags are already showing promise in lung cancer and this study suggests they could also be effective in treating up to 15 per cent of pancreatic cancers,” said co-lead author Professor David Tuveson, from Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute.

Using a mouse mode of pancreatic cancer, researchers used a method called the "sleeping beauty transposon system." According to study authors, "A transposon is a piece of DNA that can spontaneously hop around the cell’s DNA from one location to the next, often landing right in the middle of a gene and stopping it from working."

Co-lead author, Dr. David Adams, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: “The human genome sequence has delivered many new promising leads and transformed our understanding of cancer. Without it, we would have only a small, shattered glimpse into the causes of this disease. This study strengthens our emerging understanding that we must also look into the biology of cells to identify all the genes that play a role in cancer,” Adams said.

Dr. Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said, “These results raise the possibility that a class of promising new cancer drugs may be effective at treating some pancreatic cancers."

This summary article was published online April 29, 2012 in Nature.

No financial disclosures were publicly available.

Review Date: 
May 3, 2012