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Pancreatic Cancer Surprisingly Slow to Arise: Study
Date:10/27/2010

By Julia VanTine
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Pancreatic cancer takes much longer to develop than commonly thought, say researchers who found a lag time of at least a decade between the emergence of key mutations and the formation of the first cancer cells.

The finding may offer hope for someday catching and treating this often-fatal disease in its early stages, scientists say.

The study, published in the Oct. 28 issue of the journal Nature, also provides new insight into the genetics of pancreatic cancer.

"What's important about this study is that it's objective data in support of why everyone should be screened for pancreatic cancer and, more important, when they should be screened," said study co-author Dr. Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue.

"I think [the data] is a major step toward impacting the survival rate of pancreatic cancer," added Iacobuzio-Donahue, associate professor of pathology and oncology at the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, which led the multi-center study.

The researchers used tissue from seven patients who died of pancreatic cancer that had spread to other organs. First, they extracted the DNA from cancer cells in the tissue. Then they sequenced the DNA, which contains operating instructions for every type of cell in the body.

In every patient, the cancer had spread, or metastasized, from the pancreas to at least two other areas, most often the liver, lung and abdominal lining. Similar cell mutations were found in the main tumor in the pancreas and in those other areas.

The scientists also classified the types of mutations -- changes in a gene that occur before and after cancer spreads. Both types of mutations were found in the primary cancer in the pancreas, years before it was known that the cancer had spread.

Using mathematical models to track the cancer's p
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