Blood chromosome differences are linked to pancreatic cancer

October 23, 2012

A new study shows that a blood marker is linked to pancreatic cancer, according to a study published today by scientists at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center and Mayo Clinic.

First author Dr. Halcyon Skinner, assistant professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, says the study is the first time pancreatic has been linked to differences in telomeres' length in blood cells.

"This suggests a new avenue to identify those with pancreatic cancer or those at risk of developing the cancer in the future,'' he says.

Skinner's colleagues at Mayo Clinic took blood samples from more than 1,500 people – 499 of them with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and 963 of them cancer-free control subjects. Specifically, the scientists were interested in the length of the telomeres – the end caps on chromosomes – found in . They found a direct relationship with the risk of pancreatic cancer: the shorter the telomeres, the more likely a person was to have pancreatic cancer.

Telomeres maintain the stability of genes, and are known to shorten with age as cells divide. People of the same chronological age can have vastly different telomere lengths. In other words, some people's cells can by viewed as biologically older than cells from other people the same age.

"We know that people with many factors that are classically unhealthy also tend to have shorter telomeres. Those who have had stressful lives, exposed to , have poor or smoked cigarettes tend to have shorter telomeres, and that can set the stage for ,'' Skinner explains.

Shortened telomeres in the blood have already been associated with other , including .

"We found the same relationship with pancreatic cancer, and for the vast majority of our participants, there was a direct linear relationship," he says, "the shorter the telomere, the higher the likelihood of pancreatic cancer."

But because shorter telomere length is also associated with the development of other cancers and other diseases of aging, measurement of telomere length alone is not a specific marker for pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Lisa A. Boardman, of Mayo Clinic, who led the overall study, says that future studies need to address if telomere length and other markers of pancreatic cancer should be combined to create a test that could be used clinically.

Explore further: Progressive telomere shortening characterizes familial breast cancer patients

Related Stories

Progressive telomere shortening characterizes familial breast cancer patients

July 29, 2011
Telomeres, the complex structures that protect the end of chromosomes, of peripheral blood cells are significantly shorter in patients with familial breast cancer than in the general population. Results of the study carried ...

Ultra short telomeres linked to osteoarthritis

January 16, 2012
Telomeres, the very ends of chromosomes, become shorter as we age. When a cell divides it first duplicates its DNA and, because the DNA replication machinery fails to get all the way to the end, with each successive cell ...

Two genes linked to why telomeres stretch in cancer cells

June 30, 2011
Scientists at Johns Hopkins have provided more clues to one of the least understood phenomena in some cancers: why the "ends caps" of cellular DNA, called telomeres, lengthen instead of shorten.

Recommended for you

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

Novel CRISPR-Cas9 screening enables discovery of new targets to aid cancer immunotherapy

July 19, 2017
A novel screening method developed by a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center—using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to test the function of thousands of tumor genes in mice—has ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.