An international research group has discovered that the mutated form of a gene called Palladin causes familial pancreatic cancer. The findings, published online Dec. 12, 2006, in the journal PLoS Medicine, may help define a target for screening and early diagnosis for this often-lethal cancer. Dr. Teri Brentnall, associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington and a Hutchinson Center affiliate investigator, led the research.
The researchers found the Palladin gene behaves abnormally in both hereditary and non-hereditary forms of pancreatic cancer. They believe the mutated gene causes cancer by triggering cytoskeleton malfunction, which allows the cancer cells to move more quickly than normal cells, essentially invading the surrounding healthy tissue.
To pinpoint the gene, Brentnall and colleagues developed a surveillance program for the early detection of pancreatic pre-cancer in susceptible families. The researchers spent a decade monitoring an affected family to identify the source of the fatal inheritance that killed half of its members.
Brentnall collaborates with Center investigators Drs. Sunil Hingorani, Meg Mandelson and John Potter on other pancreatic-cancer research.