DNA strand

Among the many genetic mutations and molecular alterations that can be found in pancreatic tumors, there are four that are the most common and – based on results from a new study – can also impact patient survival.

The paper, published yesterday in JAMA Oncology, found that patients with three or four of the most common genetic alterations showed poorer prognoses than those with one or two of the mutations. The work was partially funded by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), through a Research Acceleration Network-2 Grant awarded to lead author Brian Wolpin, MD, MPH, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and co-author David Linehan, MD, of University of Rochester.

The four most common mutations in pancreatic tumors are in the KRAS, CDKN2A, SMAD4 and TP53 genes. The study analyzed the genetic makeup of tumors from patients who underwent surgery. Patients with mutations in two or fewer of these genes had a five-year overall survival rate of more than 18 percent, the study showed, whereas those whose tumors had all four genes mutated had a five-year survival rate of just over 8 percent.

“Pancreatic cancer is the world’s toughest cancer, which is why we fund critical research like the work conducted by Drs. Wolpin and Linehan and others,” said Julie Fleshman, JD, MBA, president and CEO of PanCAN. “Important findings like this add to our understanding of the biology of the disease and provide insight into how to treat it better, and ultimately drive toward better patient outcomes.”

Patients and their oncologists can learn about the unique characteristics of their tumor through molecular profiling, which analyzes DNA and protein changes that transform healthy cells to cancer. In addition to their status of these four major genetic changes, patients can learn if other, less common, alterations are present in their tumor that could inform treatment options. Studies have shown that treatments based on the patient’s tumor biology may increase their success. And since every pancreatic tumor is different, PanCAN strongly recommends molecular profiling of patients’ tumors to help determine the best treatment options for them.

Contact PanCAN Patient Services to learn more about this study, molecular profiling and treatment options for pancreatic cancer patients, including clinical trials.