Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found a way of identifying families at high risk of pancreatic cancer.
The team has developed a novel means of testing for pancreaticcancer that will enable doctors to treat the killer disease at itsearliest stages. They are also now able to show how the risk of cancerfor these patients changes with age.
The Liverpool-based study group known as EUROPAC (EuropeanRegistry Of Hereditary Pancreatitis And Familial Pancreatic Cancer),working in collaboration with a similar group in Germany, has shownthat familial pancreatic cancer develops at an increasingly younger ageas it is passed down generations - a phenomenon known as anticipation.
In the largest study of its kind, the team surveyed 600families with a history of pancreatic cancer and identified a subgroupof over 80 families whose lifetime risk of developing the cancer was 50per cent.
Dr Bill Greenhalf, from the University's Division of Surgeryand Oncology, said: "Of those families with the highest incidence ofpancreatic cancer, we found that members developed the disease at ayounger age in each generation. As well as giving important clues aboutthe nature of the disease, this allows a more accurate estimate of therisk an individual faces of developing cancer in the short term so wecan treat the cancer as soon as possible."
The team led by Dr Greenhalf has developed a novel method ofanalysing pancreatic juice, taken from patients in families with ahistory of pancreatic cancer. By analysing DNA scientists are able toidentify specific genetic mutations that indicate the chances of apatient developing the disease in the short term, ranging from a 0.1%chance to a 90% certainty.
Dr Greenhalf added: "Our research has provided strong evidence thatanticipation and pancreatic juice analysis are the most effective meansof screening for pancreatic cancer in families with a history of thedisease. We intend to carry out further trials of these techniques andhope the results encourage more widespread adoption of these screeningmethods."
The research is published in two separate papers in the academic journals, Gut and Gastroenterology.
Notes to editors
1. The Pancreas Treatment and Research Centre at the University of Liverpool is the largest of its kind in the UK.
2. Cancer of the pancreas is one of the ten most common cancers inBritain, killing 7,000 people every year. It is amongst the mostdifficult to detect and treat. There are very few early symptoms and somost patients present late. Only 15% of patients are suitable forsurgery - the only treatment available - and most sufferers die withina year of diagnosis.
3. The University of Liverpool is one of the UK's leading researchinstitutions. It attracts collaborative and contract researchcommissions from a wide range of national and internationalorganisations valued at more than £90 million annually.
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