The 2018 Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers Symposium is taking place in San Francisco, Jan. 18 to 20. The meeting brings together more than 3,500 researchers and healthcare professionals from across the United States and around the world – featuring expert presentations, interactive poster sessions and opportunities for data-sharing, networking and collaboration-building.

Know Your Tumor results presented at the 2016 GI Cancers Symposium. Pictured, left to right: Lynn Matrisian, PhD, MBA, PanCAN; Michael Pishvaian, MD, PhD, Perthera; Lola Rahib, PhD, PanCAN; Andrew Hendifar, MD, MPH, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

A key contingent of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s (PanCAN) scientific and medical affairs staff will be in attendance, and several posters will be presented that highlight PanCAN’s efforts to improve patient outcomes and to communicate with the patient and research communities.

“We are pleased to attend and participate in this year’s GI Cancers Symposium,” said Lynn Matrisian, PhD, MBA, chief science officer at PanCAN. “Meetings like this help us keep abreast of the field and learn from and interact with experts, while providing an opportunity for us to educate attendees about our comprehensive patient services and innovative research efforts.”

Two of the PanCAN-affiliated posters being presented relate to the organization’s Know Your Tumor® precision medicine service, prepared in collaboration with the precision medicine company Perthera and research partners at several major institutions. Through Know Your Tumor, patients and their healthcare teams can gain access to their tumor’s molecular profile – biological characteristics that can help define personalized treatment options, including clinical trials.

Pancreatic cancer patients who participate in clinical research have better outcomes. Every treatment available today was approved through a clinical trial. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strongly recommends clinical trials at diagnosis and during every treatment decision.

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The first poster aims to answer a very important methodological question: Does tumor tissue obtained from a metastatic site, like the liver, provide the same molecular information as tissue from a patient’s primary tumor in their pancreas?

The researchers looked at the number and types of molecular alterations that were detectable in patients’ primary tumors vs. metastatic sites. It’s important to note that the team obtained either a primary or metastatic tumor sample from each patient; they did not look at multiple tissue specimens from the same patient.

“Our analysis suggested that tissue samples taken from metastases in a patient’s liver or lung provided similar information as tumor tissue from the pancreas,” Matrisian said. “Importantly, this allows the Know Your Tumor service to continue to utilize available metastatic or primary tumor tissue to reveal valuable clues about the tumor’s molecular makeup that can potentially inform treatment decisions.”

Presented in the second poster are results focused on a specific molecular alteration, known as BRAF mutation, that was found in a small subset of patients who underwent testing through Know Your Tumor. Most of the time, BRAF mutations are mutually exclusive from a much more common molecular alteration in pancreatic tumors, mutations in KRAS.

Importantly, there are drugs that can effectively target and kill cancer cells that contain BRAF mutations. Based on the data being presented at the GI Cancers Symposium, the authors conclude that clinical trials aimed at targeting mutant BRAF in patients with normal versions of KRAS are warranted.

To learn more about Know Your Tumor, clinical trials or other topics related to the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer, please contact PanCAN Patient Services.

The final poster involving PanCAN that will be presented at this year’s GI Cancers Symposium switches gears to social media – and how Twitter can facilitate disease-specific conversations.

Launched in April 2016, a monthly Twitter chat, using hashtag #PancChat, brings together healthcare professionals, researchers, patients, caregivers and representatives from advocacy groups like PanCAN. Popular topics discussed have included clinical trials, early detection and familial/hereditary pancreatic cancer.

“PancChats are an excellent opportunity to foster communication among key pancreatic cancer experts and patients and their family members,” Matrisian said. “And we’re so inspired to know that the chats average around 1.75 million impressions (the number of times each tweet is seen) per chat!”

Matrisian added, “Whether in-person or virtually, PanCAN is dedicated to being there for patients facing this disease and to continuing to pursue groundbreaking clinical and scientific research that accelerates progress toward our goal of doubling survival by 2020.”

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