Pankreas Klinik Schweiz

Genetic research
and genetic tests

Genes contain the blueprints for all cells and organs of the human body. Changes (for example as in mutations) in these genes can contribute to the development of a multitude of diseases. The decoding of these genes and their changes has lead to an improvement of early recognition and treatment of certain diseases.

Research on pancreatic cancer

The European Pancreas Centre, with which the Pancreas Clinic Switzerland works hand in hand, has been working intensively for several years on research into the molecular and genetic changes in various cancers. One focus here is pancreatic cancer (pancreatic carcinoma). A number of important insights into the development of this tumour have been gained and the first new treatment methods, some of which have been successfully tested in animal models, have been developed. Some of these research results are briefly explained below.

Pancreatic cancer has a very poor prognosis and the incidence of this disease has increased in recent years. Due to continuous improvements in diagnostics, it is being detected more often and earlier. Pancreatic cancer is a very aggressive disease and currently ranks fifth in the death statistics for malignant tumours.

Chances of recovery

Complete surgical removal of the tumour is the only therapy that offers patients a chance of recovery. Chemotherapy, alone or as a complementary measure to surgery, is often appropriate and improves survival time and chances of survival. Radiation therapy, on the other hand, is only used in special situations in Europe. This therapy can reduce the size of the tumours, in certain cases reduce pain and improve the quality of life.

The reasons for the aggressive growth of pancreatic cancer cells are not fully understood. Molecular biology studies on human pancreatic cancer cells already underlined the important role of growth factors in the development of pancreatic cancer in the 1980s. These are factors that accelerate the growth of various cells and especially cancer cells. At the same time, it is observed in pancreatic cancer that factors that normally inhibit cell growth or lead to cell death are either reduced or their function is disturbed by genetic changes (mutations). The growth of the pancreatic cancer cells is no longer slowed down.

In addition, the cancer cells produce substances that have a positive influence on the ability of the pancreatic cancer cells to invade the surrounding healthy tissue or other organs and form offshoots (metastases).

In recent years, our own research has focused on improving therapy for patients and, in the basic area, on developing an immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer.

Molecular biological research

In recent years, molecular biological research has contributed to a marked increase in our understanding of what causes pancreatic cancer.

The increased presence of growth factors and a host of other molecular changes give pancreatic cancer cells a considerable growth advantage, which enhances the progress of the disease and which could be responsible for the failure of the tumor to respond to chemotherapy or radiotherapy. In the meantime a battery of studies has been able to show that an increasingly aggressive behavior of pancreatic cancer and a shorter post-operative life expectancy is linked to molecular change in the cancer cells. By gaining knowledge of these cell processes, we then try to develop a remedy. 

Better therapy thanks to research

Further research may make it possible for us to offer our patients improved therapies for their cancer. In recent years new methods of treatment based on molecular research have opened up paths for genetic therapy. These new treatment methods are available to our cancer patients.

A further focus area is the research into genetic defects in patients with a family history of pancreatic cancer as well as into the inherited form of chronic pancreatitis.