Mayo Clinic Cancer Center Finds Possible Genetic Link To Pancreatic Cancer

Mayo Clinic researchers have found the risk of developing pancreatic cancer at a young age (under 60) to be twice as high for people who carry a mutation of the gene that causes cystic fibrosis, compared to noncarriers. Results of a pilot and follow-up study were reported Oct. 14, 2005, online in the journal Gut. Pancreatic cancer kills over 32,000 people in the United States each year Twenty percent are under age 60. "Being able to screen for a genetic mutation that points to a higher risk will enable us to intervene earlier," says Robert McWilliams, M.D., Mayo Clinic oncologist and lead author of the study. "Early screening is one step in the process to developing ways to prevent or cure this deadly disease." Nearly all patients who develop pancreatic cancer will succumb to the disease. A genetic marker that helps physicians find individuals most at risk to develop the cancer also will help find it early enough to perform effective surgery. Individuals who carry the cystic fibrosis gene mutation are at increased risk for pancreatitis -- inflammation of the pancreas. Chronic pancreatitis has been proven to increase the risk of pancreatic cancer 26-fold, which led Mayo Clinic researchers to the hypothesis that mutations in the gene that carries cystic fibrosis may be directly linked to a higher risk for pancreatic cancer.

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