The genetic sequence of gallbladder cancer in Chinese patients is reported in a study published online this week in Nature Genetics. The results may lead to the development of new targeted therapies for about one-third of gallbladder cancer patients.
Gallbladder cancer is a rare and often fatal type of cancer that is more common in certain populations, such as East Asians and Northern Indians. In addition, people with gallstones and chronic inflammation are at higher risk for gallbladder cancer.
Yingbin Liu and colleagues studied mutations present in 57 gallbladder cancer samples from Chinese patients. They found that genes in the ErbB signalling pathway-an important pathway in cell growth and survival-impacted nearly 37% of samples and are linked to poor prognosis. Further tests of the effects of these genes in gallbladder cancer cells in the lab showed that when a mutated form of one ErbB pathway gene, ERBB3, was active at the same time as a normal form of another, ERBB2, cells grew much faster; consistent with a more aggressive cancer.
Drugs that inhibit genes in the ErbB pathway have already been developed and are currently being tested in other cancers with similar mutations.