London: German researchers have developed a novel technique that can identify previously unknown pancreatic cancer genes even invisible to genetic sequencing.
While genome sequencing can identify all categories of genetic alterations with high accuracy, some of these changes are difficult to interpret.
"Unbiased genome-wide screening in mice allows us to see cancer from a different angle and answer biological questions that cannot be addressed with other approaches," explained professor Roland Rad from the research university Technische Universitat Munchen (TUM) and German Cancer Research Centre.
The technique has identified many genes, previously unknown, to be involved in pancreatic cancer, including Foxp1.
When Foxp1 was induced in mice, tumours spread from the pancreas to other organs, suggesting the gene drives cancer progression.
This finding was confirmed when researchers looked at human samples and found high levels of Foxp1 gene product in cancers that had metastasised.
"The study will boost research into a disease that is still poorly understood and for which five-year survival rates have stood at around five percent for the past four decades," Rad said.
Researchers will now be able to look more closely at the pancreatic cancer genes which have been discovered by this study in the hope of finding effective drugs for a disease that is set to be the second leading cause of cancer deaths by 2030.
The paper appeared in the journal Nature Genetics.