Singapore: Scientists claim to identified a number of new genes frequently mutated in bile duct cancers, a breakthrough that may pave the way for better understanding on how the deadly type of liver cancer develops.
A team from the Duke-National University of Singapore and Khon Kaen University of Thailand says it has used the latest genomic technologies to identify the bile duct cancer (also known as Cholangiocarcinoma) genes, `Nature Genetics` reports.
"This discovery adds depth to what we currently know about bile duct cancer. More important is that we are now aware of new genes and their effects on bile duct cancer and we now need to further examine their biological aspects to determine how they bring about onset of Cholangiocarcinoma," Prof Teh Bin Tean, who led the team, said.
Using state of the art DNA sequencing platforms, the scientists analysed eight bile duct cancers and normal tissues from Thai patients, and discovered mutations in 187 genes.
The team then selected 15 genes that were frequently mutated for further analysis in an additional 46 cases. Many of these genes, such as MLL3, ROBO2 and GNAS, have not been previously implicated in bile duct cancers.
"With this finding we now know much more about the molecular mechanisms of the disease and we can draw up additional measures that can be taken while we identify the most appropriate treatment protocols. We are talking about the potential to save many lives in Thailand.
"Also, this study shows that we can work closely with our counterparts in other countries and share our expertise and experience to improve the lot for the people," said Professor Vajarabhongsa Bhudhisawasdi of Khon Kaen University.
The researchers also compared the bile duct cancers to other related cancers of the liver and pancreas. Surprisingly, they found that the bile ducts cancers shared certain similarities with pancreatic cancer.
"This research provides a strong direction for future studies. Cholangiocarcinoma and Pancreatic Duct Adenocarcinoma appear to share more molecular similarities than earlier studies had indicated, and suggest that there are common biological pathways between the two cancers.
"By studying these pathways, we can then shed more light on how these tumours develop," said Prof Patrick Tan, another team member, said in a university release.