Scientists at the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins reported in the July 20 issue of Science Translational Medicine (http://stm.sciencemag.org/) that they have developed a gene-based test that can be used to distinguish harmless from precancerous pancreatic cysts. The test may eventually help patients with harmless cysts avoid needless surgery.
Fluid-filled cysts are actually fairly common in the pancreas. The problem is that it can be hard to distinguish harmless pancreatic cysts from precancerous cysts.
Bert Vogelstein, M.D., and his colleagues discovered that almost all of the precancerous cysts of the pancreas have mutations in the GNAS and/or the GNAS gene. The researchers then tested a total of 132 precancerous pancreatic cysts for mutations in KRAS and GNAS. Nearly all (127) had mutations in GNAS, KRAS or both. Next, the investigators tested harmless cysts, and the harmless cysts did not have GNAS or KRAS mutations.
Larger numbers of patients must be studied before the gene-based test can be widely offered.
To learn more about pancreatic cysts, visit: http://pathology.jhu.edu/pancreas/cyst/index.php