Pancreatic cancer, like many other forms of the disease, doesn’t always present exactly the same. Tumor type can vary and that means patients may benefit from more targeted treatments designed to battle the specific tumor subtype. While doctors have known about pancreatic cancer subtypes, treatments to date have remained more or less uniform. Researchers, however, are beginning to delve into subtypes more in an effort to learn more about what they can mean in regard to prognosis and the potential for improved treatments to battle this disease.

In an effort to learn more about subtypes, researchers analyzed 145 primary and 61 metastatic tumors. They also looked at 17 cell lines and 46 normal pancreatic samples. One subtype in particular, a basal-like subtype, produced worse outcomes for patients. Only about 44 percent of patients with the basal-like subtype survived a year after surgery. The survival rate for those with the classic subtype was about 70 percent. Having the ability to determine tumor type, researchers say, may help doctors better chart out plans of treatment while helping them better understand potential prognosis.

While subtype research is showing different treatment protocols could prove valuable in helping pancreatic cancer, more study is required. Researchers now hop to conduct clinical trials that may help them see if the identified subtypes can help them better predict response to therapy.

Pancreatic cancer strikes nearly 50,000 people each year. Some 40,000 die annually from the disease. With a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent, researchers are working against the clock to find treatments that can improve prognosis. The discovery of different subtypes may, in fact, hold one of the keys to success down the road.
People who are at risk for pancreatic cancer are urged to discuss the condition with their health care providers. Early detection is critical for increasing chances of treatment success.