Brake Gene turned off in pancreatic cancer

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Cancer Research UK reported this week that aggressive pancreatic tumours may be treatable with a new class of drugs.

About 7,800 people in the UK are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year and it is the fifth most deadly cancer. Less than one in five people with this type of cancer are currently still alive within a year of diagnosis.

A study has showed that a gene was being switched off in the cancerous cells. The researchers said that drugs were already being tested which had the potential to turn the gene back on to stop the spread of the cancer. Studies carried out on mice showed that a gene called USP9x which normally stops a cell from dividing uncontrollably is switched off in some pancreatic cancer cells. This gene is not mutated but other proteins and chemicals become stuck to it and turn the gene off. Further research showed that USP9x was being turned off in human pancreatic cancer.

Prof David Tuveson from Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute said: “We suspected that the fault wasn’t in the genetic code at all but in the chemical tags on the surface of the DNA that switch genes on and off and by running more lab tests we were able to confirm this. Drugs which strip away these tags are already showing promise in lung cancer.” Dr Julie Sharp, also of Cancer Research, said that “These results raise the possibility that a class of promising new cancer drugs may be effective at treating some pancreatic cancers.” It is suggested that up to 15% of pancreatic cancers could be treated by turning off this one gene.

Julie Crossley, a medical injury lawyer at Ashtons Legal, comments: “Any breakthrough in cancer research is always welcomed and this in particular is good news for anyone given this diagnosis”.


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