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Genetics of Pancreatic Cancer

Studying the Likelihood of Cancer Development

University of Chicago physician-scientists are studying the genes of cancer patients and their families with the goal of preventing cancer or finding cancer before it may become incurable.

"We are the only comprehensive program in Chicago that offers genetic testing and screening for pancreatic cancer," says Funmi Olopade, MD, director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics. Every patient who comes through the center, she says, should have a family history taken and will be offered genetic testing. »Learn more about our pancreatic cancer screening services

Dr. Funmi Olopade Dr. Funmi Olopade

Research shows that there is a strong link between pancreatic cancer and the BRCA2 mutation that plays a role in breast cancer. "If a man has developed pancreatic cancer, we can reach out to his daughters about the risk for breast cancer," Dr. Olopade says. There is also concern about links between pancreatic cancer and lung cancer, melanoma, and bladder cancer.

Less than 20 percent of pancreatic cancers have a genetic link, however, most patients--and many physicians--are not aware of the genetic factor of this disease. As a result, patients have died without the potential impact of the genetics being shared with their families.

Dr. Olopade is working with Irving Waxman, MD, to develop genetic screening tests that will aid in the early detection of pancreatic cancer, hoping to catch the disease before it spreads or becomes incurable.