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Potential treatment for a specific kind of pancreatic cancer
Date:9/16/2013

Australian researchers have identified a potentially treatable subtype of pancreatic cancer, which accounts for about 2% of new cases. This subtype expresses high levels of the HER2 gene. HER2-amplified breast and gastric cancers are currently treated with Herceptin.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cause of cancer death in Western societies, with a 5-year survival rate of less than 5%. It is a molecularly diverse disease, meaning that each tumour will respond only to specific treatments that target its unique molecular make-up.

A new study, published in Genome Medicine, used a combination of modern genetics and traditional pathology to estimate the prevalence of HER2-amplified pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic surgeon Professor Andrew Biankin, from Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre at the University of Glasgow, worked with pathologist Dr Angela Chou and bioinformatician Dr Mark Cowley from Garvan, as well as cancer genomics specialist Dr Nicola Waddell from the Queensland Centre for Medical Genomics at the University of Queensland.

Using data sourced from the Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative1 (APGI), the team identified a patient with high-level HER2 amplification. Using whole genome DNA sequencing of the tumour, Dr Nicola Waddell pinpointed the specific region of the genome that contains HER2.

Dr Angela Chou then performed detailed histopathological characterisation of HER2 protein in tissue samples taken in the past from 469 pancreatic cancer patients. This produced a set of standardised laboratory testing guidelines for testing HER2 in pancreatic cancer, and showed the frequency of HER2 amplified pancreatic cancer of 2.1%.

Dr Chou also found that - like HER2-amplified breast cancer patients - the cancers of those with HER2-amplification in the pancreas tended to spread to the brain and lung, rather than the norm, which is th
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Contact: Alison Heather
a.heather@garvan.org.au
61-243-407-1326
Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Source:Eurekalert

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