Human tissue samples are an integral component in oncology research. Samples sourced from formalin-fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) tissue serve as the primary source of diseased tissue for many research projects. DNA, RNA and proteins sourced from FFPE blocks are an invaluable resource that facilitate oncology research in a number of important areas. One promising avenue is the study of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is often only diagnosed after the patient presents with symptoms. Generally, once the cancer has developed to the point where symptoms such as abdominal pain and weight loss are present, the cancer can be diagnosed but not effectively treated. Scientists are currently searching for biomarkers that will make the early detection of pancreatic cancer a reality. Such early detection is critical for effective treatment.
FFPE blocks have served to foster important gains in the classification of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Five genes have been isolated from FFPE block-derived patient samples that show excellent results in discriminating from normal tissue. This five gene PDAC classifier has excellent results discriminating early lesions from non-malignant tissue and could serve well in the clinic as a diagnostic tool that catches the disease earlier in its progression and allows for more effective treatment.
DNA repair genes have been shown to affect PDAC susceptibility. Researchers studied 109 PDAC cases and identified 513 putative DNA repair genes. Studies have documented that patients carrying germline variants of certain DNA repair genes have the worst case of survival. This information allows doctors to more effectively treat early stage pancreatic cancer.
Another promising area of oncological research is the study of MicroRNAs. These small non-coding RNA sequences have been shown to impact gene silencing and post-transcriptional regulation in many cancers. In the case of pancreatic cancer scientists have observed differential expression between healthy normal and diseased tissue. Biomarkers derived from MicroRNA may help scientists identify early biomarkers and even facilitate early treatment of the disease.
DNA, RNA and proteins sourced from FFPE blocks are an important resource in the study of various cancers. In the case of pancreatic cancer these samples allow researchers to develop new diagnostics and identify treatment strategies for earlier stages of the disease. This work, once translated into a clinical context, will help doctors provide better treatment and identify the disease early enough in the progression to improve survival rates.