Study identifies candidate susceptibility genes for pancreatic cancer risk

September 9, 2020

A study led by University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center researcher Lang Wu, Ph.D., has identified six novel candidate susceptibility genes for pancreatic cancer risk . This transcriptome-wide association study, which assesses genetically predicted expression and pancreatic cancer risk by integrating genome-wide association studies with gene-expression datasets, was published in the American Association for Cancer Research journal, Cancer Research .

Lang Wu

To investigate susceptibility genes for pancreatic cancer, Wu and collaborators developed comprehensive genetic models to predict gene expression levels across the human genome in normal pancreas tissue. Through using these models along with data from 8,275 individuals diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 6,723 individuals who have not been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the researchers found 13 candidate susceptibility genes.

Seven, of the 13 genes found, were previously reported confirming their associations with pancreatic cancer risk. The other six candidate susceptibility genes that were identified had not been previously reported to be associated with risk of this disease.

Pancreatic cancer represents one of the leading causes of cancer mortality in Hawaiʻi and the U.S. overall. “Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of only nine percent. To reduce the disease burden, research is needed to better understand which factors cause it, which is currently largely unknown,” said Wu.

From 2012-2016, data shows that pancreatic cancer incidence is increasing in males in the state of Hawaiʻi. “Our discovery of novel candidate susceptibility genes associated with pancreatic cancer will allow us to better understand the biology and genetics of this deadly malignancy, and help us to identify individuals at risk,” added Wu.

Wu and colleagues are now conducting studies to incorporate the newly identified genes along with other genetic and non-genetic factors into new risk prediction models for pancreatic cancer. Findings from these studies will help researchers to implement risk assessment strategies to improve pancreatic cancer outcomes.