• By Susan Murphy

Science Saturday: Identifying inherited gene mutations in pancreatic cancer can lead to targeted therapies, better survival

December 18, 2021
a medical illustration of a human torso, with the pancreas highlighted

A new Mayo Clinic study finds 1 in 6 people with pancreatic cancer harbor inherited genetic mutations.

Identifying hereditary gene mutations in pancreatic cancer can help determine individualized treatments and potentially prolong survival, according to new Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine research.

In the study, which was published in Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology, nearly 1 in 6 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer were found to have an inherited cancer-related gene mutation that likely predisposed them to the disease. The most common genetic mutation was in the BRCA2 gene, known as a "breast cancer gene."

"We found that the patients who had one of these genetic mutations — especially if they were mutations in homologous recombination repair  genes, including BRCA2 — had a 50% chance of better survival than the people without that genetic mutation," says Niloy Jewel Samadder, M.D., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist and hepatologist, and the study's senior author.

"For example, two of the patients with better survival were treated with PARP inhibitors, which are designed to work on the BRCA pathway," Dr. Samadder says. "And one patient who was diagnosed with Lynch syndrome was treated with immunotherapy for their advanced disease and showed successful stabilization of their disease."

Pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths, with a five-year survival rate of just 10%. Nearly 60,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2020, and more than 47,000 died, according to the American Cancer Society.

Read the rest of the article on the Center for Individualized Medicine blog.

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