Genome sequencing is helping to unlock the mysteries behind pancreatic cancer and translating knowledge into better treatment options.

The landscape of cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment have evolved throughout the years, yet the state of pancreatic cancer has remained virtually unchanged. Patients deserve a viable shot at survival, and our research aims to give them a fighting chance.

Liquid biopsies are one example of how non-invasive diagnostics are being used in cancer care facilities. However, methods of early detection for pancreatic cancer are scarce. This means the disease has even more opportunities to spread the longer it is left unnoticed, making it more difficult to treat.

The Province of Ontario Strategy for Personalized Treatment in Pancreatic Cancer (Prosper-PANC) is a four-year study that uses blood plasma samples previously collected from clinical trials, to be used again in a new ground-breaking method of analysis. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is a revolutionary method of research that allows DNA molecules to be analyzed at one time via blood sample, providing the most comprehensive characterization of the genome. With over 500 blood plasma samples and genomic tumor data from pancreatic cancer patients at the ready, this study will allow researchers to determine if WGS is the future of early detection.

Prosper-PANC is part of the larger PanCuRx initiative through the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, in collaboration with the International Cancer Genome Consortium. Our highly skilled lead investigators are experts in in-depth genomic analysis and are seen as global leaders in their field of research, and we are proud to be partnering with them in hopes of saving more lives.

“The way we’re applying knowledge in real time is very cutting edge and hopefully it can offer a better path for people with pancreatic cancer.”

Dr. Steven Gallinger

Surgical oncologist and PanCuRx co-lead

Why is this study important?

There are currently few reliable methods for detecting pancreatic cancer in its early stages. This often allows the disease to rapidly spread before diagnosis can even occur. By using data and samples from the plasma repository of our COMPASS trial, our researchers hope to determine the following:


  • If WGS can be relied upon in screening for pancreatic cancer to create a standardized method of early detection for the disease.
  • What the limitations are for this method of analysis, i.e., if it can be applied to different stages of cancer, or variations in tumour characteristics and types.
  • A better understanding of why patients stop responding to certain treatments, and how we can tailor personalized medicine to these cases.

What is the impact?

The aim of Prosper-PANC is to improve the treatment selections and therapeutic options for pancreatic cancer patients. We hope to see WGS become the standard for non-invasive pancreatic cancer diagnosis, therefore creating a suitable method for early detection. This aligns with our overarching goal of raising survival rates and improving patient’s overall quality of life.

How does it work?

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) allows all three billion molecules in a single cell to be analyzed at once, providing the most comprehensive characterization of the genome.

The plasma samples for this trial have already been paired with accompanying tumour data, which will also allow our researchers to analyze the mutations that may have derived from each case. This technology creates a more consistent and detailed view of the disease and will allow for us to further personalize care for patients. 

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