A new study by scientists at the University of Liverpool suggests there may be a way of identifying families at high risk of pancreatic cancer.
The Liverpool research group called EUROPAC (European Registry Of Hereditary Pancreatitis And Familial Pancreatic Cancer), in cooperation with a counterpart organization in Germany, has found that familial pancreatic cancer develops at an increasingly younger age as is it is passed down through generations.
The team has developed a new way of testing for pancreatic cancer that will allow doctors to treat the disease in its preliminary stages and to trace how the risk of cancer in these patients changes with age.
The researchers conducted the largest study on this subject, evaluating 600 families with a history of pancreatic cancer. They also identified a subgroup of more than 80 families who had a 50% risk of developing the cancer in their lifetime.
Dr. Bill Greenhalf of the University’s Division of Surgery and Oncology and his team have developed a new method for analyzing the pancreatic juice of patients from families with a high risk of pancreatic cancer.
By analyzing DNA, scientists were able to identify specific genetic mutations that indicate a patient’s changes of developing the cancer (from a 0.1% chance to a 90% certainty) in the short term.
Dr. Greenhalf said: "Of those families with the highest incidence of pancreatic cancer, we found that members developed the disease at a younger age in each generation. As well as giving important clues about the nature of the disease, this allows a more accurate estimate of the risk an individual faces of developing cancer in the short term so we can treat the cancer as soon as possible."
Greenhalf expects to conduct further studies of his new methods with the hope that pancreatic cancer screening procedures will be widely adopted.