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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: Pancreatic Cancer Tumor Classification Could Optimize Treatment Choices

A study from the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center could help predict resistance to treatments for pancreatic cancer — one of the deadliest cancer types.

In Clinical Cancer Research, researchers reported findings on how two subtypes of pancreatic cancer respond to treatments differently. Importantly, they found that one subtype of the disease showed poor responses to common therapies, and also had a worse survival rate.

The researchers were led by Dr. Naim Rashid, assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Dr. Jen Jen Yeh, professor of surgery and pharmacology at UNC’s School of Medicine, both of whom are members of the Lineberger Center.

“Our study evaluated the best way to classify tumors according to available treatment response data from prior clinical trials,” said Dr. Yeh. “Our hope is that we can use this information to tailor treatments and potentially avoid giving therapies that may not work well for certain patients.”

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancer types, with just 9.3 percent of patients surviving five years after diagnosis. The disease is typically diagnosed in later stages, when the cancer has already spread.

In 2015, UNC Lineberger researchers discovered two major subtypes of pancreatic cancer based on the molecular and genetic features of the disease. However, several other research groups reported different classification systems with three and four subtypes, and consensus was lacking regarding which of the proposed systems was optimal for clinical decision-making.

“This study basically provides the evidence that this is something we can feasibly do in the clinic,” Dr. Yeh said.

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