New research indicates that aggressive pancreatic tumors may be treatable with a new class of drugs because of the discovery of the USP9x gene. Fewer than one in five people with pancreatic cancer survive past the first year after being diagnosed.
The study—published today in the journal Nature—showed that the gene in question was being switched off in cancerous cells, but drugs with the potential to turn USP9x back on and stop the spread of cancer are already being tested.
"We looked in human tumor specimens and we found that [USP9x] was missing in a fraction of patients—the patients that did very poorly ... the people who died the fastest," said researcher David Tuveson. "Patients that had a low level of the gene died very quickly after their operation and the patients who at the end of their life had lots of metastasis, they had also a very low level of this protein."