Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has an extremely poor prognosis and represents a major public health issue, as both its incidence and mortality are expecting to increase steeply over the next years. Effective screening strategies are lacking, and most patients are diagnosed with unresectable disease precluding the only chance of cure. Therapeutic options for advanced disease are limited, and the treatment paradigm is still based on chemotherapy, with a few rare exceptions to targeted therapies. Germline variants in cancer susceptibility genes—particularly those involved in mechanisms of DNA repair—are emerging as promising targets for PDAC treatment and prevention. Hereditary PDAC is part of the spectrum of several syndromic disorders, and germline testing of PDAC patients has relevant implications for broad cancer prevention. Germline aberrations in BRCA1
genes are predictive biomarkers of response to poly(adenosine diphosphate–ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor olaparib and platinum-based chemotherapy in PDAC, while mutations in mismatch repair genes identify patients suitable for immune checkpoint inhibitors. This review provides a timely and comprehensive overview of germline aberrations in PDAC and their implications for clinical care. It also discusses the need for optimal approaches to better select patients for PARP inhibitor therapy, novel therapeutic opportunities under clinical investigation, and preclinical models for cancer susceptibility and drug discovery.
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