Researchers find novel way to induce pancreatic cancer cell death

April 10, 2017, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Axial CT image with i.v. contrast. Macrocystic adenocarcinoma of the pancreatic head. Credit: public domain

Pancreatic cancer, most frequently pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), is the most lethal and aggressive of all cancers. Unfortunately, there are not many effective therapies available other than surgery, and that is not an option for many patients.

In an effort to better understand cancer at a molecular level, scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in collaboration with those at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Tianjin Medical University General Hospital in China, conducted a study to try to identify molecules that could become the next generation of therapeutics for this type of cancer. Results of their findings are published in the cover article in the April issue of the journal Autophagy.

Previous research had shown that micro RNA (MIR506), a small molecule produced in the human body, had functioned as a tumor suppressor in many human cancers and enhanced chemotherapy's effectiveness in ovarian cancer. The researchers hypothesized that this molecule was a viable option for further study in pancreatic cancer. Normally, MIR506 plays an important role in regulating cell behavior; adequate levels help the cells function normally, while decreased levels trigger cell growth and expansion occurring in tumors.

In this study, samples were taken from patients' tumors during surgery and transplanted into mice to grow new pancreatic cancer tumors.

"By using an animal model to expand tumor cells recently removed from patients, we hoped to re-create more closely what actually happens in patients with pancreatic cancer rather than by using existing artificial cell lines," said Wei Zhang, Ph.D., an endowed Hanes and Willis Family Professor in cancer at Wake Forest School of Medicine, a part of Wake Forest Baptist, and principal investigator of the study.

The scientists first observed that levels of MIR506 were lower in the tumor as compared to a normal pancreas. Next they treated the experimental tumor cells with MIR506 to determine if it would behave in the same way it had with ovarian and other cancers. They found that treating the pancreatic cancer cells with MIR506 inhibited both malignant and the cellular process that causes cancer to metastasize.

More importantly, Zhang and his team for the first time found that treating the pancreatic cells with MIR506 induced autophagy, a process that occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism's growth or development and that could promote cancer cell death.

"The potential therapeutic value of this finding is important because we could deliver MIR506 directly to using technologies like nanoparticles and exosomes," Zhang said. "Hopefully, this will provide us with a new way to fight this deadly form of ."

Explore further: Starving pancreatic cancer cells: Scientists identify potential pancreatic cancer target

Related Stories

Starving pancreatic cancer cells: Scientists identify potential pancreatic cancer target

October 17, 2016
Researchers have found that a protein called SLC6A14 is overexpressed by several fold in pancreatic tumors taken from patients and in cancerous pancreatic cells lines compared with normal pancreatic tissue or normal pancreatic ...

Study challenges potential pancreatic cancer target

January 17, 2017
A protein thought to fuel pancreatic cancer development plays a much more complicated role, a new study finds.

Aspirin slows growth of colon, pancreatic tumor cells

December 15, 2016
Researchers from Oregon Health and Science University and Oregon State University have found that aspirin may slow the spread of some types of colon and pancreatic cancer cells. The paper is published in the American Journal ...

Immune system infighting explains pancreatic cancer's aggression

August 25, 2016
Internal conflict between cell types explains why the immune system struggles to recognize and attack pancreatic cancer. Curbing this infighting has the potential to make treatment more effective, according to a study led ...

Reason for pancreatic cancer's resistance to chemotherapy found

November 21, 2016
A pioneering University of Liverpool research team have published a study that identifies the mechanism in the human body that causes resistance of pancreatic cancer cells to chemotherapy.

Recommended for you

New breath and urine tests detect early breast cancer more accurately

April 25, 2018
A new method for early and accurate breast cancer screening has been developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center, using commercially available technology.

Do prostate cancer cells have an Achilles' heel?

April 25, 2018
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago describe new ways to selectively kill prostate cancer cells by exploiting the cells' revved-up metabolism. They report their findings in the online journal, eLife.

Research shows possible new target for immunotherapy for solid tumors

April 24, 2018
Research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) reveals a potential new target to help T cells (white blood cells) infiltrate certain solid tumors.

Changes in breast tissue increase cancer risk for older women

April 24, 2018
Researchers in Norway, Switzerland, and the United States have identified age-related differences in breast tissue that contribute to older women's increased risk of developing breast cancer. The findings, published April ...

Targeting molecules called miR-200s and ADAR2 could prevent tumor metastasis in patients with colorectal cancer

April 24, 2018
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The main cause of death in patients with colorectal cancer is liver metastasis, with nearly 70% of patients ...

Experimental arthritis drug prevents stem cell transplant complication

April 24, 2018
An investigational drug in clinical trials for rheumatoid arthritis prevents a common, life-threatening side effect of stem cell transplants, new research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows. ...

0 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.