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Does Cancer Lie About its Age on its Driver's License?

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A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer — with its prognosis of a 5 percent chance of survival for five years — is enough to shake even the most stoic of patients. But there is now evidence that shows that pancreatic cancer mutations begin developing 15 years before most people are diagnosed, says Melinda Wenner Moyer at Scientific American, indicating that there may be "plenty of time for doctors to intervene." In a letter published in Nature, a group of researchers from Johns Hopkins University say that they sequenced the genomes of seven patients who died from late-stage pancreatic cancer and, tracing the evolution of their mutations, found that they could be tracked back 10 years before cancer cells actually started to develop. Other researchers are working on screening techniques for pancreatic cancer, Moyer says, with one group identifying cancer-related RNAs in patients' saliva, and another group developing an optical technology that recognizes various stages of pancreatic cancer cells. Those technologies are still being developed but they are expected to advance in the next decade, she reports.

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