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Surprise finding: Pancreatic cancers progress to lethal stage slowly
Date:10/27/2010

ad to other organs. Patients die an average of two and a half years after this metastasis.

The results contradict the idea that pancreatic cancers metastasize very early in their development, says Iacobuzio-Donahue.

For the study, scientists collected tissue samples during autopsies of seven patients who died from pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to other organs. Because the tissue samples were taken within six hours of each patient's death, the scientists were able to keep some of the cells alive long enough to extract the DNA and sequence the series of chemical "letters" that form genes.

In all patients, metastatic deposits were found in two or more sites in the body, most often the liver, lung and peritoneum (lining of the abdomen). The researchers found similar mutations present in both the areas of metastasis and in the primary pancreatic tumors from which the metastases arose.

They also identified and classified the types of mutations ones that occur before metastasis and others that happen after the cancer has spread. Both types of mutations were present within the primary tumor years before the metastases became clinically evident, according to Iacobuzio-Donahue.

Using mathematical models to study the timing of pancreatic cancer progression, the scientists conservatively estimated an average of 11.7 years before the first cancer cell develops within a high-grade pancreatic lesion, then an average of 6.8 years as the cancer grows and at least one cell has the potential to spread, and finally, an average of 2.7 years from then until a patient's death.

The Hopkins scientists say the goal is develop a pancreatic cancer screening method similar to the protocol used for breast and colon cancer. Though early stages of pancreatic cancer cause no symptoms, Iacobuzio-Donahue says, perhaps at a certain age people should undergo an endoscopy to screen for pancreatic cancer. Endoscopy is a procedure allowing
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Contact: Vanessa Wasta
wastava@jhmi.edu
410-955-1287
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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