Pancreatic cancer treatment may be aided by the discovery of a new hereditary cause of the disease.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins in the US have found that a mutation in the ATM gene may increase the risk of patients developing tumours in the pancreas.
Doctors explained that the findings are significant as ten per cent of incidences occur in those with a family history of the illness.
"There was significant reason to believe this clustering was due to genetics, but we had not, to this point, been able to find the causative," said lead author Alison Klein, associate professor of oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.
She and her colleagues used the latest diagnostic imaging equipment to sequence whole genomes before they could isolate the ATM gene.
According to Cancer Research UK, pancreatic cancer is the tenth most common form of the disease in the UK and only three per cent of people diagnosed survive more than five years.