Searching for genomic factors for pancreatic cancer

FCP data to be used in international research project

A large international collaboration led by research colleagues from Johns Hopkins University and the US National Cancer Institute (NCI), and using data from over 25 studies conducted in Europe, the US and Australia, including the FCP, has recently secured funding and is now underway.

The goal of this collaboration is to improve our understanding of the genetic basis of pancreatic cancer, a major cause of cancer death, whose incidence (globally as well as in Australia) has been steadily increasing over the past decade.

Pancreatic cancer incidence has mostly been studied in people of European ancestry. Concentrating on only a single ethnicity gives us a narrow view of human genomes and can cause us to miss important genomic variants that are rare or absent in Europeans. This study aims to expand our view of pancreatic cancer genomics: its first stage will focus specifically on African Americans through ‘whole genome sequencing’ – analysing the entire genomes of 1,000 pancreatic cancer patients of African ancestry and 1,000 controls, to find new genomic regions associated with pancreatic cancer risk.

In its second stage, the study will expand to detect pancreatic cancer association across all ethnic groups using genomic data from 25,000 pancreatic cancer patients and 60,000 controls, and conduct multi-ethnic genome mapping. Data from the Forgotten Cancers Project will contribute to this stage of the research.

In addition, the study will analyse the interaction of genomic factors with known risk factors for pancreatic cancer: smoking, obesity, diabetes, and alcohol consumption.

Understanding the genetics of pancreatic cancer risk is of critical importance to reducing the burden of this devastating disease. The researchers hope to identify new genomic variants responsible for pancreatic cancer risk, and to better understand how genomic factors combine with other risk factors to influence risk. This could help pancreatic cancer prevention, improve screening efforts for this notoriously hard-to-detect cancer, and find better treatments to combat it.