Scientists have found a new treatment that could cure aggressive forms of pancreatic cancer.
Scientists from the Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have discovered a gene called USP9x. They believe just switching on the gene they could treat pancreatic cancer.
Scientists claim that USP9x gene stops the cancer cell from multiplying out of control.
"The genetics of pancreatic cancer has already been studied in some detail, so we were surprised to find that this gene hadn't been picked up before. 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," said Professor David Tuveson, researcher at the Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Research Institute.
The study also claims that USP9X gene could be faulty in up to 15 per cent of pancreatic cancers, raising the prospect that existing drugs, which strip away these chemical tags, could be an effective way of treating some pancreatic cancers.
Scientists conducted some experiments on mice that had pancreatic cancer.
During the experiment, scientists used a technique called Sleeping Beauty transposon mutagenesis, to analyse mouse models' genes that speed up pancreatic cancer growth. Sleeping Beauty transposon mutagenesis uses mobile genetic elements that hop around the cell's DNA from one location to the next. Cells that acquire mutations in genes that contribute to cancer development will grow out and "driver" cancer genes may be identified.
By introducing the Sleeping Beauty transposon researchers were able to screen for a class of genes called a tumour suppressor that, under normal circumstances, would protect against cancer. These genes are a bit like the cell's 'brakes', so when they become faulty there is little to stop the cell from multiplying out of control.
This approach uncovered many genes already linked to pancreatic cancer. But unexpectedly, USP9X common gene fault was one with no previous links to any cancer type discovered.
"The human genome sequence has delivered many new promising leads and transformed our understanding of cancer. Without it, we would have only a small, shattered glimpse into the causes of this disease. This study strengthens our emerging understanding that we must also look into the biology of cells to identify all the genes that play a role in cancer," said, Dr David Adams, researcher at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, in a statement.
"These results raise the possibility that a class of promising new cancer drugs may be effective at treating some pancreatic cancers," said Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at the Cancer Research UK, in a statement.
"Fewer than 20 per cent of people survive pancreatic cancer for a year after diagnosis - a situation that has improved little in the last 20 years. Studies like this one are part of Cancer Research UK's commitment to invest more in hard-to-treat cancers like pancreatic cancer, hopefully improving treatment to save more lives in the future," she added.