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Genetic Mutations Linked to Deadly Cancers
Date:9/4/2008

Findings of 3 studies focus on brain and pancreatic tumors

THURSDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Potentially groundbreaking discoveries involving genetic mutations of two deadly cancers -- the brain cancer glioblastoma and pancreatic cancer -- may lead to new treatments and even cures, researchers say.

"These studies represent the most complete genetic analysis to date of any tumor type and provide a detailed genetic map of these deadly cancers," Kenneth Kinzler, a professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University, and co-author of the study on pancreatic cancer, said during a teleconference Wednesday.

These findings are important, because genetic mutations are involved in the development of all cancers, Kinzler said. Kinzler's study of the genetic makeup of pancreatic cancer is published in the Sept. 4 online edition of Science.

Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed in 38,000 people, and brain cancer strikes 21,000 people each year in the United States. Only about 5 percent survive these cancers, the researchers said.

For the pancreatic cancer study, the researchers looked at genes in 24 people with the disease. "Analysis of 20,000 genes in 24 pancreatic cancers provided a global overview of the molecular landscape that was previously unknown to this tumor type," Kinzler said.

The researchers found 63 genetic alterations in these pancreatic cancers. However, genes do not work alone; they work together in what are called pathways. When looked at this way, Kinzler's group found 12 altered pathways.

"This really is a new perspective on the changes that drive tumor progression and suggests that we need to rethink the optimal way of diagnosing, categorizing and treating cancer," Kinzler said.

In the second report, published in the same issue of Science, co-author Dr. Victor Velculescu, an assistant professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University, and colleagues stu
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