DNA sequencing is the process of determining the precise order of nucleotides—the basic building blocks—within a DNA molecule. Knowledge of DNA sequences has become critical in cancer research. RNA sequencing is very similar to DNA sequencing, as it refers to techniques used to determine the sequence of RNA molecules that are also part of the pancreatic cancer tumor.

In a study published in Cancer Discovery, genomic analyses of metastatic pancreatic cancers have suggested approximately one third of pancreatic cancer patients may have a genomic alteration that could impact treatment decisions and guide doctors to choose a specific therapy in a personalized medicine approach.

The study describes a metastatic tumor biopsy protocol now being used at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute called PancSeq, which was implemented to perform whole exome-DNA and RNA-sequencing for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Additionally, both tumor DNA and inherited DNA were sequenced for all patients. The analyzed data were then given to their clinicians to assist in the patients’ care.

Overall, 30% of enrolled patients had a change in their clinical care as a result of their genomic data, including the recommendation for some patients that family members consider genetic testing due to a potential inherited predisposition to pancreatic cancer. This data demonstrates how the timely collection of genetic information can impact treatment decision-making in pancreatic cancer through enrollment of patients in clinical trials or the use of off-label targeted therapies.

Personalized Medicine for Dad


OncoTreat”—a tool being used by a team of researchers led by Kenneth Olive, Ph.D., and Andrea Califano, Ph.D., at Columbia University Medical Center—is a computational framework pairing patients with optimal treatments based on gene expression data from their tumors. Rather than using DNA mutations, the approach reads the dynamic messages found in the RNA of tumor cells and interprets these to identify critical weak spots where the tumor may be attacked.

The team is also making organoids for each patient, analyzing the RNA of the tumor and using artificial intelligence to predict which drug could work for specific patients based on their RNA profiling, then treating each patient with that drug. Additionally, Drs. Olive and Califano are conducting a clinical trial in second-line metastatic pancreatic cancer patients with the primary goals of assessing safety and feasibility, and identifying early indications of efficacy.

Much like DNA, RNA (ribonucleic acid) is an essential component in many biological roles. Different types of RNA exist in the cell to perform various roles, such as coding and decoding, regulation and gene expression.

Unlike DNA, RNA is a single-stranded molecule RNA.

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