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Tracking Down One of Cancer’s Deadliest Culprits, the RAS Family of Genes

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When it comes to the current state of cancer survival, Susan Bates feels like many of the rest of us.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” she says. For Bates, who treats pancreatic and other cancers at Columbia University Medical Center, the frustration is worsened by virtue of knowing her enemy—an elusive gene that “makes cancer grow very fast.”

Bates is speaking about the ras family of genes that drive many deadly cancers. The three members of this family—kras, nras and hras—are responsible for nearly 30 percent of all human cancers. Kras is particularly frightening. Nearly all pancreatic cancers, about half of colorectal cancers and about a third of lung cancers contain mutant kras, which is involved in an estimated 1 million cancer deaths annually. Read more…

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