Reducing the growth of pancreatic cancer in patients who happen to test positive for a mutation in the KRAS gene may be possible. Researchers believe they have identified a way to block this gene’s function and help treat this highly deadly disease in the process.

Pancreatic cancer affects an estimated 49,000 American each year. With an five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent, the disease is also responsible for claiming the lives of about 40,000 Americans annually. With no real symptoms at its onset, a lack of early detection tools and later stage symptoms often and easily confused for other problems, diagnosing this disease at present is very problematic. That lack of an easy early detection mechanism gives rise to later stage discovery and limits any available treatment options.

New research is finding that hope may lie in the KRAS gene. More than 95 percent of pancreatic cancers are known to present with this gene mutation. Researchers have found that an investigation drug known to block a protein called ERK may disrupt the impacts of the KRAS mutation. This, in turn, has been shown to help reduce growth in some pancreatic cancers.

Just how soon the drug may be available for clinical use remains unclear. Further study is required. Researchers also note that the findings do not present a one-size-fits-all solution to pancreatic cancer. The reality is that not all pancreatic cancers responded to the drug and there remain concerns that cells may develop immunities over time.

People who are at risk for pancreatic cancer are urged to discuss this condition with their healthcare providers. Understanding personal risk is helpful for enabling action to lower it. Those who have been diagnosed with the disease, should carefully review all treatment options with their doctors. The best strategy will depend on the unique case at hand.