Scientists find potential way to halt pancreatic cancer spread

Cancer Research UK scientists have shown how switching off a key protein in pancreatic cells slows the spread of the disease to other tissues, a key step which can mean patients have just weeks to live.

The study, published in this month's issue of Gastroenterology, provides some of the first insights into how elevated levels of the protein 'fascin' help cells penetrate the tightly packed cells lining the abdomen.

Pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat because patients don't usually have symptoms until the disease begins to spread. As a result survival remains low, with only around 4 per cent of patients living more than five years.

Study leader Dr Laura Machesky, from Cancer Research UK's Beatson Institute in Glasgow, said: "We know fascin is overactive in many cancers, but this is the first time we've been able to show that tumours lacking this protein are less able to develop and spread. What's more, we found patients with elevated fascin levels were more prone to the cancer coming back and tended to succumb to the disease more quickly.

"It's early days, but we think that developing drugs to block fascin could potentially help halt cancer spread in patients with pancreatic cancer, and other cancers with higher levels of this protein."

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The researchers studied human cancer samples and mice predisposed to get pancreatic cancer. They found that when fascin was absent, pancreatic cancer was less able to spread around the body. In mice, this delayed the onset of the disease and resulted in smaller tumours.

Eleanor Barrie, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "This new discovery paves the way for new drugs that could potentially slow cancer spread, reducing the chances that cells left behind after surgery could go on to re-grow the cancer. Pancreatic cancer is notoriously difficult to treat - less than four per cent of patients survive for five years or more, a situation that has seen little improvement in recent decades. We've recently announced increased funding for research that will give like this with hard to treat cancers the hope of a much brighter future."

More information: Li A. et al, "Fascin Is Regulated by Slug, Promotes Progression of Pancreatic Cancer in Mice, and Is Associated With Patient Outcomes," Gastroenterology (2014), DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2014.01.046

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bacteria in mouth may diagnose pancreatic cancer

May 18, 2014

Patients with pancreatic cancer have a different and distinct profile of specific bacteria in their saliva compared to healthy controls and even patients with other cancers or pancreatic diseases, according to research presented ...

'Achilles heel' of pancreatic cancer identified

May 01, 2014

A research team at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center reports that inhibiting a single protein completely shuts down growth of pancreatic cancer, a highly lethal disease with no effective therapy.

Recommended for you

US women's awareness of breast density varies

8 hours ago

Disparities in the level of awareness and knowledge of breast density exist among U.S. women, according to the results of a Mayo Clinic study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Study shows why some brain cancers resist treatment

8 hours ago

Scientists at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center may have discovered why some brain cancer patients develop resistance to standard treatments including radiation and the chemotherapy agent temozolomide.

Researchers identify genes responsible for lung tumors

10 hours ago

The lung transcription factor Nkx2-1 is an important gene regulating lung formation and normal respiratory functions after birth. Alterations in the expression of this transcription factor can lead to diseases such as lung ...

Lycopene may ward off kidney cancer in older women

11 hours ago

A higher intake by postmenopausal women of the natural antioxidant lycopene, found in foods like tomatoes, watermelon and papaya, may lower the risk of renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.