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X Marks the Spot on Pancreatic Cancer

Alexandros Tzatsos, MD, PhD, assistant professor of anatomy and regenerative biology at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences and researcher at the GW Cancer Center, has uncovered a connection between a specific gene, KDM6A, and the most aggressive form of pancreatic cancer.
Tzatsos’ study, published in Cancer Cell, found that a loss of KDM6A, an X chromosome-encoded histone demethylase, induces a histologically distinct subtype of pancreatic cancer known as “squamous-like.” The gene, Tzatsos and his team found, also is frequently mutated or deleted in squamous-like pancreatic cancer and acts as a tumor suppressor. He also determined that bromodomain and extra-terminal (BET) inhibitors, a class of small molecules now in clinical trials for treating several malignancies, could be a potential treatment by restoring cell identity and sensitizing tumors to current therapies.
Pancreatic cancer accounts for 3 percent of cancers in the United States, and 7 percent of all cancer deaths. The squamous-like subtype of this cancer offers the worst prognosis and accounts for 20–30 percent of pancreatic cancer cases.