Exploration of genetic susceptibility to pancreatic cancer: A GWAS approach

Hongwei Tang, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Pancreatic cancer is the 4th most common cause for cancer death in the United States, accompanied by less than 5% five-year survival rate based on current treatments, particularly because it is usually detected at a late stage. Identifying a high-risk population to launch an effective preventive strategy and intervention to control this highly lethal disease is desperately needed. The genetic etiology of pancreatic cancer has not been well profiled. We hypothesized that unidentified genetic variants by previous genome-wide association study (GWAS) for pancreatic cancer, due to stringent statistical threshold or missing interaction analysis, may be unveiled using alternative approaches. To achieve this aim, we explored genetic susceptibility to pancreatic cancer in terms of marginal associations of pathway and genes, as well as their interactions with risk factors. We conducted pathway- and gene-based analysis using GWAS data from 3141 pancreatic cancer patients and 3367 controls with European ancestry. Using the gene set ridge regression in association studies (GRASS) method, we analyzed 197 pathways from the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) database. Using the logistic kernel machine (LKM) test, we analyzed 17906 genes defined by University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) database. Using the likelihood ratio test (LRT) in a logistic regression model, we analyzed 177 pathways and 17906 genes for interactions with risk factors in 2028 pancreatic cancer patients and 2109 controls with European ancestry. After adjusting for multiple comparisons, six pathways were marginally associated with risk of pancreatic cancer ( P < 0.00025): Fc epsilon RI signaling, maturity onset diabetes of the young, neuroactive ligand-receptor interaction, long-term depression (Ps < 0.0002), and the olfactory transduction and vascular smooth muscle contraction pathways (P = 0.0002; Nine genes were marginally associated with pancreatic cancer risk (P < 2.62 × 10−5), including five reported genes (ABO, HNF1A, CLPTM1L, SHH and MYC), as well as four novel genes (OR13C4, OR 13C3, KCNA6 and HNF4 G); three pathways significantly interacted with risk factors on modifying the risk of pancreatic cancer (P < 2.82 × 10−4): chemokine signaling pathway with obesity ( P < 1.43 × 10−4), calcium signaling pathway (P < 2.27 × 10−4) and MAPK signaling pathway with diabetes (P < 2.77 × 10−4). However, none of the 17906 genes tested for interactions survived the multiple comparisons corrections. In summary, our current GWAS study unveiled unidentified genetic susceptibility to pancreatic cancer using alternative methods. These novel findings provide new perspectives on genetic susceptibility to and molecular mechanisms of pancreatic cancer, once confirmed, will shed promising light on the prevention and treatment of this disease.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Tang, Hongwei, "Exploration of genetic susceptibility to pancreatic cancer: A GWAS approach" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3540411.