Pancreatic cancer: Some genetic mutations may improve survival rate

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
Vaccine vials in a labShare on Pinterest
New research shows certain KRAS mutations in pancreatic cancer may improve survival rates compared to other mutations. William Taufic/Getty Images
  • In 2020, more than 495,000 adults globally received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
  • More than 90% of people with a common type of pancreatic cancer have KRAS mutations.
  • Researchers discovered that certain KRAS mutations in pancreatic cancer are associated with better survival rates compared to other mutations in the disease.
  • The findings add to existing research targeting KRAS mutations to develop a cancer vaccine.

In 2020, more than 495,000 adults around the world received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, making it the 12th most common cancer in the world.

In the United States, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is the most common type of pancreatic cancer — accounting for about 90% of all cases — with an average 5-year survival rate of less than 10%.

Previous research shows that traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy do not help increase the survival rate for this type of pancreatic cancer.

More than 90% of people with pancreatic cancer have mutations in their KRASgenes, which play an important role in normal cell growth and death.

Now researchers from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have discovered that people with pancreatic cancer with certain types of Health">KRAS mutations have a better survival rate than those with other mutation types.

The study, recently published in the journal NPJ Precision Oncology, adds to the ongoing research examining KRAS mutations as a potential target for a cancer vaccine for pancreatic and colorectal cancers.

Dr. Dan Zhao, researcher in the Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology in the Division of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and co-lead author of this study explained to Medical News Today:

“Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is projected to be the second leading cause of cancer death, but its treatment options remain limited. The 5-year overall survival rate for patients who have metastatic disease is less than 5%. The incidence of pancreatic cancer is rising. Effective treatment for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is in urgent need.”

The KRAS G12C inhibitor is currently driving research toward a potential cancer vaccine.

For example, earlier this year the phase 1 clinical trial results for ELI-002 — a potential vaccine for colorectal and pancreatic cancers — showed it could help prevent the reemergence of cancer in those who had already experienced cancer treatment.

“The current data for pancreatic cancer vaccine in phase 1 clinical trials are exciting,” Dr. Zhao said. “I look forward to seeing the results in more patients in phase 2 trials, especially with randomized controlled trials soon.”

MNT also spoke with Dr. Anton Bilchik, surgical oncologist, chief of medicine, and director of the Gastrointestinal and Hepatobiliary Program at Providence Saint John’s Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, CA, about this study.

Dr. Bilchik said this study is very important because pancreas cancer is a deadly disease, however, there has been very little progress over the last 20 years in prolonging survival.

“KRAS is a really important target for a vaccine,” he continued. “I think one of the issues is we just don’t know how long the benefit is because some have speculated that vaccine therapy may only have a very short-lived response. And also there are many different KRAS subtypes so we’re trying to learn which particular subtype may be the most important to target.”

“So there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, but definitely very exciting because no immunotherapy or vaccine therapies so far has been shown to be beneficial in pancreas cancer,” Dr. Bilchik stated.

Share this Article