Carcinoma of the pancreas is considered to be one of the most lethal forms of the disease. However, the researchers explained that the disease killed swiftly simply because its slow progression caused the most obvious symptoms to remain undetected until it was too late.
Dr. Bert Vogelstein the leader of the study and associated with the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore said that the detection of the cancer within the first 20 years will provide the doctors a chance of curing it completely by means of surgery.
Vogelstein’s team conducted a joint research with the British researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the Cambridge University. They dug through various pancreatic tumors by collecting the tissue samples as soon as the autopsies were conducted on patients who had succumbed to the carcinoma of the pancreas. Tissues from the surgically removed cancerous tumors were also studied. These samples had been taken from three patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The researchers published their findings in two papers of the ‘Nature’ journal. They tried to clock the evolution of the tumor at the molecular level by utilizing the various mutations of the tumors. The DNA mutations can be calculated perfectly and the researchers could easily identify the mutations due to pancreatic cancer. The DNA from
the primary tumors were then compared to the secondary ones that had developed in the liver or elsewhere in the body.
Vogelstein formulated a plan of creating a family tree noting the mutations of the genes in successive generations. However, the most difficult part appears to be screening for pancreatic cancer. The tumors can hardly be spotted before they get to be too big and even then the process for removing them is complicated indeed.