The current study centered on a field known as epigenetics, which focuses on inherited information other than that directly encoded by DNA. In addition to genetic mutations, epigenetic changes such as alterations to histone modifications contribute to the development of cancer, said Kurdistani, an assistant professor of biological chemistry.
"Overall, these histone modifications are providing useful information as to how a cancer may behave," he said. "In addition, there may be a direct causal link between these changes and tumor aggressiveness."
The tissues used in the study came from a 195- patient cohort enrolled in the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group 9704 trial, a multi-center, phase III study of pancreatic cancer comparing adjuvant Gemcitabine with 5-FU, and a separate, 140-patient cohort of patients with stage I or II pancreatic cancer from UCLA.
Generally, low levels of histone modifications were found to be predictors of poor survival in both patient cohorts, and to identify those less likely to respond to 5-FU in the 9704 patient cohort, the study reports.
"Pancreatic cancer is a highly aggressive and lethal cancer for which there are limited therapeutic options," the study states. "Along with genetic events, tumor-associated epigenetic alterations are important determinants in the initiation and progress of pancreatic cancer and represent promising biomarkers and therapeutic targets."
It may take three to five years to develop a commercially available test that could be used on prostate, kidney, lung and pancreatic cancer patients, Kurdistani said.
Next, Kurdistani and Dawson will be pursuing studies in cell lines and animal models to determ
|Contact: Kim Irwin|
University of California - Los Angeles