CEXS-UPF: New findings improve our understanding of how pancreatic cancer develops

CEXS-UPF: New findings improve our understanding of how pancreatic cancer develops

News from CEXS-UPF

Researchers at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and University Health Network's Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, led by Faiyaz Notta, Thomas Hudson and Steven Gallinger, have discovered new findings that challenge current beliefs about how and why pancreatic cancer is so aggressive. The study, published this week in Nature, is based on a hypothesis made more than ten years ago by Francisco X. Real, professor at the Department of Health and Experimental Sciences of UPF, leader of the Epithelial Carcinogenesis Group at CNIO and co-author of the article.

This deadly disease often strikes "out of nowhere," and the cancer is often inoperable by the time the patient experiences symptoms. Pancreatic cancer's tendency to appear at an advanced stage had long been a medical mystery. Using whole genome sequencing, the team reconstructed the history of pancreatic cancer development in 100 independent tumours. Unexpectedly, they found that many of the important alterations that are thought to cause this disease actually occur "all at once", similar to the idea of the "big bang".

"Our findings show a very different path for how this disease develops and puts the clinical problem of this disease into better perspective" said Notta, an OICR Fellow, Principal Investigator at the Princess Margaret and lead author of the study. "We can make more sense about why this disease is so aggressive and can advance so quickly." The experimental findings confirm the hypothesis considered by Real 10 years ago in an article in which he proposed a "catastrophic" model for tumor progression.

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Reference article:
Fayaz Notta et al. A renewed model of pancreatic cancer evolution based on genomic rearrangement patterns. Nature, Octubre 2016. doi:10.1038/nature19823