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PANCREATIC CANCER: An Emerging Paradigm for Germline Testing in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma and Immediate Implications for Clinical Practice


March 16, 2020


<hp>The prevalence of germline predisposition alleles is 4-10%, with MSI and BRCA1/2 variants linking to specific therapies. NCCN guidelines recommend germline testing for all new patients; somatic tumour profiling also delivers this information.

An Emerging Paradigm for Germline Testing in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma and Immediate Implications for Clinical Practice

JAMA Oncol. Published online February 13, 2020

Importance Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a malignant neoplasm with a rising incidence and is a leading public health challenge. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma has been well characterized genomically, with findings of therapeutic actionability that have substantive implications for clinical practice based on recent high-level evidence.

Observations Pathogenic germline alterations (PGAs) are relatively common in individuals with PDAC, as evidenced in multiple recent data sets, with a frequency of approximately 10%. The most common PGAs are in BRCA1, BRCA2, and ATM and more rarely in PALB2, MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2, CDKN2A, and TP53, among others, with an aggregate frequency of 3.8% to 9.7%. These PGAs are of key interest owing to therapeutic actionability and the downstream identification of at-risk family members and possible hereditary cancer syndromes. Approximately 3% to 7% of individuals with PDAC harbor a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, which are among the most frequently mutated genes in PDAC. Recent updates to the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines recommend risk assessment for all individuals with PDAC irrespective of personal or family history or ethnicity. Treatment implications include the use of checkpoint inhibitor therapy for mismatch repair–deficient PDAC and the validation of poly-ADP (adenosine diphosphate)-ribose polymerase inhibitor (PARPi) therapy as a maintenance strategy in platinum-sensitive PDAC.

Conclusions and Relevance With increasing evidence and slow improvement of outcomes, PDAC has entered the era of precision medicine. Germline mutations have been identified in key genes with an aggregate frequency of 3.8% to 9.7%, several of which are therapeutically actionable with platinum, PARPi, and checkpoint inhibitor therapy. Potential therapeutic targets need to be actively sought and identified.