EPIC Working Groups - Cancer Working Groups

The Pancreatic Cancer Working Group

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in Europe for men and women combined. Cases are almost always diagnosed at an advanced stage, and with few treatment options available, the resulting 5-year survival rates are among the lowest (<5%) of any cancer. The best option for treatment is still surgery, but this is available only for <20% of cases with smaller lesions at diagnosis and those that have not spread beyond the pancreas. A history of tobacco smoking, excess central adiposity, and long-standing diabetes are common preventable causes of pancreatic cancer, but these factors are not present in the majority of cases. An important aim of the EPIC Pancreatic Cancer Working Group is therefore to evaluate environmental and genetic risk factors for pancreatic cancer, and to identify pre-diagnostic biomarkers for early detection of this aggressive cancer.

Major activities within the Working Group involve evaluations of the role of dietary and metabolic factors and common genetic and epigenetic events, as well as identification of novel etiological factors that may act independently or be modified by known risk factors for pancreatic cancer. Recent topics in EPIC include evaluation of the role of inflammation and immune response, infection, vitamin D status, plasma fatty acids, and metabolomics approaches. International research collaborations, including genome-wide association studies (PanScan), have resulted in the establishment of large projects involving EPIC investigators, and data pooling projects focused on confirming known or suspected risk factors, including rare exposures (e.g. heavy alcohol consumption), as well as identifying novel genetic factors and their interactions in pancreatic cancer etiology.

Selected publications:

  1. Michaud DS et al. Alcohol intake and pancreatic cancer: a pooled analysis from the Pancreatic Cancer Cohort Consortium (PanScan). Cancer Causes Control 2010 Aug;21(8):1213-25. PMID: 20373013

  2. Arslan AA et al. Anthropometric measures, body mass index, and pancreatic cancer. A pooled analysis from the Pancreatic Cancer Cohort Consortium (PanScan). Arch Intern Med. 2010 May 10;170(9):791-802. PMID: 20458087

  3. Grote VA et al. Diabetes mellitus, glycated haemoglobin and C-peptide levels in relation to pancreatic cancer risk: a study within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. Diabetologia. 2011 Dec;54(12):3037-46. PMID: 21953276

  4. Ammundadottir L et al. Genome-wide association study identifies variants in the ABO locus associated with susceptibility to pancreatic cancer. Nature Genetics. 2009 Sep;41(9)986-90. PMID: 19648918

  5. Li D et al. Pathway analysis of genome-wide association study data highlights pancreatic development genes as susceptibility factors for pancreatic cancer. Carcinogenesis 2012 Jul;33(7):1384-90. PMID: 22523087

  6. Michaud DS et al. Plasma antibodies to oral bacteria and risk of pancreatic cancer in a large European cohort study. Gut 2013 Dec;62(12):1764-70. PMID: 22990306

  7. Elena JW et al. Diabetes and risk of pancreatic cancer: a pooled analysis from the Pancreatic Cancer Cohort Consortium. Cancer Causes Control. 2013 Jan; 24(1)13-25. PMID: 23112111

  8. Duell EJ et al. Menstrual and reproductive factors in women, genetic variation in CYP17A1, and pancreatic cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort.Int J Cancer. 2013 May 1;132(9):2164-75. PMID: 23015357

  9. Obón-Santacana M et al. Dietary intake of acrylamide and pancreatic cancer risk in the EPIC cohort. Ann Oncol. 2013 Oct;24(10):2645-51. PMID: 23857962

Contact details/Working Group leader

Verena Katzke, PhD
Division of Cancer Epidemiology
German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)
Heidelberg, Germany