Background: The pancreatic lesions of cystic fibrosis develop in utero and closely resemble those of chronic pancreatitis. Therefore, we hypothesized that mutations of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene may be more common than expected among patients with chronic pancreatitis.
Methods: We studied 134 consecutive patients with chronic pancreatitis (alcohol-related disease in 71, hyperparathyroidism in 2, hypertriglyceridemia in 1, and idiopathic disease in 60). We examined DNA for 22 mutations of the CFTR gene that together account for 95 percent of all mutations in patients with cystic fibrosis in the northwest of England. We also determined the length of the noncoding sequence of thymidines in intron 8, since the shorter the sequence, the lower the proportion of normal CFTR messenger RNA.
Results: The 94 male and 40 female patients ranged in age from 16 to 86 years. None had a mutation on both copies of the CFTR gene. Eighteen patients (13.4 percent), including 12 without alcoholism, had a CFTR mutation on one chromosome, as compared with a frequency of 5.3 percent among 600 local unrelated partners of persons with a family history of cystic fibrosis (P<0.001). A total of 10.4 percent of the patients had the 5T allele in intron 8 (14 of 134), which is twice the expected frequency (P=0.008). Four patients were heterozygous for both a CFTR mutation and the 5T allele. Patients with a CFTR mutation were younger than those with no mutations (P=0.03). None had the combination of sinopulmonary disease, high sweat electrolyte concentrations, and low nasal potential-difference values that are diagnostic of cystic fibrosis.
Conclusions: Mutations of the CFTR gene and the 5T genotype are associated with chronic pancreatitis.