A new study published in this weeks Nature
scientists Steve Gallinger
and Sean Cleary
, in collaboration with researchers at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
, the Sanger Institute in Cambridge
, provides evidence for pancreatic cancers starting with a virtually simultaneous collection of mutations. In many cancers, mutations in key tumour associated genes act in a sequential manner, ratcheting up the aggressiveness and severity of the tumour over a period of time. This linear model of tumour progression has been well documented in colorectal and other cancers and while there are multiple genetic paths that can be taken by tumour cells, the stepwise model provided insight into how tumours developed. Using new computational analysis, Gallinger and colleagues failed to observe this ordered genetic disruption in pancreatic cancers, which is one of the most aggressive and deadly of all tumour types. Instead, they found evidence for coincidence mutations in multiple genes leading. In essence, the tumours were born mature. While the team does not yet understand how this occurs, it sheds important light into this particularly recalcitrant cancer and suggests that combinatorial drug therapies that target multiple genetic pathways will be essential to tackle this disease.