Study Reveals How a Certain Gene Plays a Role in Pancreatic Cancer

According to a story from Laboratory Equipment, a team of scientists have discovered a gene that appears to play a prominent role in pancreatic cancer and could help predict if a patient will respond well to certain treatments. The gene in question is called IDO2, which plays a role in the immune system. More specifically, it releases an enzyme which regulates immune system behavior.

About Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most dangerous forms of cancer. The pancreas is a glandular organ that is situated behind the stomach. Part of the reason that pancreatic cancer is so dangerous is that it rarely produces noticeable symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage and begun to spread. However, even when detected earlier, it is difficult to treat effectively. Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include being male, old age, African-American ancestry, family history, smoking, obesity, diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, and a diet heavy in red meat, processed meat, or meat cooked at very high temperatures. Symptoms include depression, upper abdominal pain, jaundice, diabetes, constipation, weight loss, and appetite loss. Treatment approaches for this cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Even with heavy treatment, pancreatic cancer almost always returns. The five year survival rate is just five percent. To learn more about pancreatic cancer, click here.

About the Research

An example of a normal function of IDO2 is that during pregnancy, the gene will mediate the immune system so that it does not attack the developing fetus mistakenly. However, pancreatic cancer also takes advantage of this ability and utilizes the gene to conceal itself from the immune system, so that the tumor remains unharmed. The gene appears to play an important role in the development of the disease. Other research has found that mice without the IDO gene would not develop pancreatic cancer as often; 30 percent of mice in this study developed the disease, but if the mice were lacking the IDO gene, only 15 percent got cancer. Remarkably, the 15 percent that still developed pancreatic cancer were all male mice, suggesting an explanation for why men get the disease at higher rates.

The researchers also found that people with deficient, altered IDO2 genes had more favorable responses to radiation therapy. They were able to survive much longer without their disease progressing.

These findings suggest that testing for someone’s IDO2 gene expression could be useful for informing treatment decisions. In addition, the data suggests that shutting down the gene could be a viable therapeutic target for drug developers. Find the original study here.

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