American Association for Cancer Research

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Genetic Marker in the Vitamin D Receptor Gene Associated With Increased Overall Survival for Pancreatic Cancer Patients


June 19, 2012

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  • Variant of vitamin D receptor gene associated with higher overall survival.
  • The variant increases levels of vitamin D receptor expression in in vitro assays.
  • Study refocuses attention on role of the vitamin D pathway in affecting the disease course.
LAKE TAHOE, Nev. — Pancreatic cancer patients with a genetic marker linked to increased expression of the receptor for vitamin D have higher rates of overall survival, according to findings presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Pancreatic Cancer: Progress and Challenges conference, held here June 18-21.

“Based on these findings, we should refocus our attention on the role of the vitamin D pathway in pancreatic cancer because it may have an impact on the survival of patients,” said Federico Innocenti, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

In a previous study, Innocenti and his colleagues prospectively collected DNA from 365 patients enrolled in the CALGB 80303 randomized phase III clinical trial testing two treatments for advanced pancreatic cancer. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) was conducted using these DNA samples to identify genetic variations known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with better or worse patient outcome. In the new study, the 300 SNPs previously shown to be most strongly associated with overall survival were tested for their association with overall survival in 408 patients of European descent with advanced pancreatic cancer treated at the Mayo Clinic.

Among the SNPs with concordant effects on overall survival of patients in the CALGB 80303 clinical trial and treated at the Mayo Clinic was a SNP in the gene coding for the vitamin D receptor. This SNP, known as rs2853564 in the VDR gene, was associated with better overall survival.

Patients with two copies of rs2853564 in VDR had a median overall survival of 10.5 months in the Mayo Clinic group and 8.9 months in the CALGB 80303 study. Patients with one copy had a median overall survival of 8.34 months in the Mayo Clinic group and 5.9 months in the CALGB 80303 study. Patients with no copies of the variant allele had a median overall survival of 6.6 months in the Mayo Clinic group and 4.7 months in the CALGB 80303 study.

While Innocenti does not see this study having any immediate clinical implications, he believes it provides more information about the link between vitamin D biology and pancreatic cancer.

Funding for this research was provided by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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About the AACR

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR’s membership includes 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes seven peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of individual and team science grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer.  

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Media Contact:
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