Remarkable new research has determined that the condition we call pancreatic cancer is actually four distinct diseases. The researchers hope, of course, that this could revolutionize methods for combating it.
Study leader, Professor Sean Grimmond, shares: “This study demonstrates that pancreatic cancer is better considered as four separate diseases, with different survival rates, treatments and underlying genetics. Knowing which sub-type a patient has would allow a doctor to provide a more accurate prognosis and treatment recommendations.”
The study involved looked at 456 pancreatic cancer tumors. More in-depth analysts determined that the disease could actually be classified as one of four sub-types. These are: squamous, pancreatic progenitor, immunogenic, and ADEX.
Approximately 8,800 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United Kingdom alone, each year, and only 20 percent of adults survive longer than a year after diagnosis.
Furthermore, study author Dr Peter Bailey adds: “The standard of care for pancreatic cancer really hasn’t changed in the last 20 years. There are a number of different chemotherapeutic options but in general it’s not very selective – it’s like hitting the disease with a mallet with your eyes closed.”
Of course, the Pancreatic Cancer UK organization has described the results as “incredibly exciting.”
In addition, Dr Emma Smith, from Cancer Research UK, explains that identifying these different types of the pancreatic cancer condition has revealed just how complex the disease is and, more importantly, provides an important step towards developing more effective treatments.
She goes on to say, “This will help to ensure patients are given the therapies that are most likely to help. Improving survival for people with pancreatic cancer is one of our top priorities, and we urgently need more research like this if we’re going to beat this disease in the future.”
Study co-leader Professor Andrew Biankin agrees, saying “There is an urgent need to better understand the molecular pathology of pancreatic cancer” so that doctors can improve treatment options for patients as well as to further develop more practical therapeutic strategies. He explains “The four subtypes that we have identified represent a reclassification of the disease and as such should provide a basis to offer new insights into personalised therapeutic options for individual patients and a launch pad to investigate new treatments.”
The results of the study have been published in the journal Nature.