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Scientists Find Potential Survival Biomarkers in Highly Fatal Pancreatic Cancer

Written by Kirsty Oswald 

Scientists find potential survival biomarkers in highly fatal pancreatic cancer 

Researchers have identified two candidate biomarkers that could help predict survival in patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). 

The team found that two genes – ZNF667 and ZNF667-AS1 – were expressed in lower levels in cancerous cells compared with healthy cells and that they appear to suppress tumour cell proliferation. 

Linking genes to survival 

In the study, reported in Cell Discovery, the team found that both overall survival and progression-free survival (the time from surgery to relapse) were significantly longer in people who had high expression levels of ZNF667.  

They also found that expression of ZNF667 and ZNF667-AS1 was lower in pancreatic cancer cells compared with normal cells, suggesting that these genes may have a role in suppressing PDAC. 

To further explore this, they experimented with overexpressing the genes in two cancer cell lines, showing that this slowed down the proliferation of pancreatic cancer cells.  

A multiomics approach 

The team used an approach called single-cell multiomics, the study of multiple “omes” at the same time. In this case, they analysed the genome, epigenome and transcriptome in each individual cell. As a control, they compared these profiles in the cancerous cells with those of normal cells taken from surrounding pancreatic tissue. This allowed them to detect the increased methylation of promotor regions of the two genes accompanied by decreased expression of their RNA.  

Overall, the researchers studied 1295 single-cell profiles from 13 patients. 

Much-needed research 

PDAC is the most common form of pancreatic cancer and has an extremely poor prognosis. Only 20% of patients are eligible for surgery, the only chance of cure. Previous research has shown that it displays a very complicated pattern of gene regulation, associated with both the hypo- and hyper-methylation of a host of genes. 

“With an integrated comparison of promoter methylation, chromatin accessibility, and RNA expression, we identified a couple of known and novel prognosis markers for PDAC, in which ZNF667 and ZNF667-AS1 were proved to play important roles in suppressing the proliferation of PDAC cells,” wrote Xiaoying Fan of Peking University, Beijing, China, and colleagues. 

These biomarkers were recently also linked to laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma. But the researchers note that at this stage, they are only candidate biomarkers and that further research in a much larger cohort of patients is needed to confirm their prognostic potential. 

Image Credit: Canva

More on these topics

Biomarkers / Cancer / Pancreatic Cancer