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Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma

Because pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage, surgical removal of the tumor or the organ is often difficult, if not impossible. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, or PDAC, is by far the most common type of pancreatic malignancy. PDAC is distinct from other cancers due to the biological barrier the tumor builds around itself. Patients whose disease is caught at an early stage have a better chance of long-term survival, but the pancreas emits few known clues to signal that the carcinogenic process has begun, so there are currently no early detection tests. For more than 30 years, NCI-supported laboratory scientists have been studying a gene called KRAS, the genetic driver of pancreatic cancer initiation and progression. However, at this time, no therapeutic solutions to KRAS mutations have been developed. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cancer killer in the United States. Overall, just 6 percent of patients survive 5 years after diagnosis. In 2012, it is estimated that there will be 43,920 new diagnoses of pancreatic cancer and 37,390 deaths will be attributed to it. Further identifying risk factors and genetic changes, achieving greater understanding of the metastatic process, and developing better methods of early detection and treatment offer the means of better controlling PDAC.