Role of oncogenic KRAS in the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer

10th Feb 2020

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is predicted to be the second most common cause of death within the next 10 years. The prognosis for this disease is poor despite diagnostic progress and new chemotherapeutic regimens. The oncogenic KRAS mutation is the major event in pancreatic cancer; it confers permanent activation of the KRAS protein, which acts as a molecular switch to activate various intracellular signalling pathways and transcription factors inducing cell proliferation, migration, transformation and survival. Several laboratory methods have been developed to detect KRAS mutations in biological samples, including digital droplet PCR (which displays high sensitivity). Clinical studies have revealed that a KRAS mutation assay in fine-needle aspiration material combined with cytopathology increases the sensitivity, accuracy and negative predictive value of cytopathology for a positive diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. In addition, the presence of KRAS mutations in serum and plasma (liquid biopsies) correlates with a worse prognosis. The presence of mutated KRAS can also have therapeutic implications, whether at the gene level per se, during its post-translational maturation, interaction with nucleotides and after activation of the various oncogenic signals. Further pharmacokinetic and toxicological studies on new molecules are required, especially small synthetic molecules, before they can be used in the therapeutic arsenal for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

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