Pancreatic tumors may require a one-two-three punch

January 15, 2018, University of Rochester Medical Center
Pancreatic tumors may require a one-two-three punch
The colors in this cell culture show action taken by pancreas cancer when it recruits harmful cells to the tumor that suppress the body’s natural immune system. Credit: University of Rochester Medical Center

One of the many difficult things about pancreatic cancer is that tumors are resistant to most treatments because of their unique density and cell composition. However, in a new Wilmot Cancer Institute study, scientists discovered that a three-drug combination can simultaneously target the cancer cells as well as the other harmful, inflammatory cells within the tumor, to improve survival.

The research builds on previous scientific data from the lab of David C. Linehan, M.D., and may define a more personalized approach to treating . Ultimately, physicians will use information from the pancreas biopsy about volume and predominance of cancer and non-cancerous that impact the immune system, and then plan the best treatment.

"People with pancreatic cancer don't have 10 years to wait for the next new drug," said Linehan, a surgical oncologist, director of clinical operations at Wilmot, and the Seymour I. Schwartz Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

"Our approach is based on evidence that this disease has particular characteristics involving both the tumor and the immune response," he said, "and we believe that treatment must address all sides of the problem."

In fact, more than 80 percent of a pancreatic tumor is comprised of cells that are not malignant cancer cells. But many of these non-cancer cells, called tumor-associated macrophages (or TAMs) still play a vital role in promoting cancer by preventing the immune system from attacking the cancer. In addition to TAMs, are also comprised of and surrounded by tumor-associated neutrophils (TANs) that further block the immune system when pancreas cancer is present. (The cancer recruits these detrimental "helper" cells, TAMs and TANs, from the bone marrow.)

Patients who have a high number of TAMs and TANs in their biopsy samples have a poorer prognosis. In general, survival odds for pancreatic cancer are dismal and the incidence is rising, fueling an urgent need for improvements in treatment through research.

The objective of the study, which was published in the British medical journal Gut, was to target TAM and TAN with a combination of experimental drugs that would reduce their numbers and allow the body's own immune defenses to act appropriately and fight the cancer, and to boost the effectiveness of standard chemotherapy. The study was conducted in mice but researchers also performed correlative analyses on human pancreatic tumor samples.

Results showed that targeting TAM and TAN—as well as the —improved antitumor immunity and chemotherapy response better than using any single therapy.

The Gut journal also published an accompanying editorial by a German physician and research leader in pancreatic cancer, who said the Wilmot study provides a strong rationale for using combinations of drugs to overcome immune evasion in and other solid tumors.

Explore further: New immune-stimulating drug, with chemo, shrinks pancreas tumors

More information: Timothy M Nywening et al. Targeting both tumour-associated CXCR2+neutrophils and CCR2+macrophages disrupts myeloid recruitment and improves chemotherapeutic responses in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, Gut (2017). DOI: 10.1136/gutjnl-2017-313738

Patrick Michl et al. Overcoming immune evasion in pancreatic cancer: the combination matters, Gut (2017). DOI: 10.1136/gutjnl-2017-315443

Related Stories

New immune-stimulating drug, with chemo, shrinks pancreas tumors

April 4, 2016
The results of an early-stage (phase 1b) clinical trial for pancreatic cancer show that an experimental therapy can control tumors well enough to make some patients eligible for surgery, according to data published in The ...

Study reveals new mechanism used by cancer cells to disarm attacking immune cells

November 20, 2017
A new study by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC - James) identifies a substance released by pancreatic cancer cells that protects ...

Pancreatic cancer development

September 1, 2017
Pancreatic ductal carcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most lethal types of cancer, with new therapeutic options needed.

Promising new strategy to halt pancreatic cancer metastasis

March 2, 2015
Pancreatic cancer and its metastases might have their days numbered, according to a study published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

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 ...

Partnering cells turn off immune attack on pancreatic tumors

July 18, 2017
Two cell types work together to protect pancreatic tumors from destruction by the immune system. But, blocking this partnership may restore the system's ability to attack these same tumor cells.

Recommended for you

Fully reprogrammed virus offers new hope as cancer treatment

May 25, 2018
A cancer treatment that can completely destroy cancer cells without affecting healthy cells could soon be a possibility, thanks to research led by Cardiff University.

Study finds gut microbiome can control antitumor immune function in liver

May 24, 2018
Scientists have found a connection between bacteria in the gut and antitumor immune responses in the liver. Their study, published May 25 in Science, was led by researchers in the Center for Cancer Research (CCR) at the National ...

Low-fat diet tied to better breast cancer survival

May 24, 2018
(HealthDay)—Breast cancer patients who adopted a low-fat diet were more likely to survive for at least a decade after diagnosis, compared to patients who ate fattier fare, new research shows.

A cascade of immune processes offers insights to triple-negative breast cancer

May 24, 2018
Cancer is crafty. To survive and thrive, tumors find a way of thwarting our body's natural systems.

By forming clots in tumors, immune cell aids lung cancer's spread

May 24, 2018
University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers have found that by helping to form clots within tumors, immune cells that flock to a particular type of lung cancer are actually building a foundation ...

Cancer cells co-opt pain-sensing 'wasabi receptor' to survive oxidative stress

May 24, 2018
Anyone who's taken a bite of a sandwich with too much spicy mustard or a piece of sushi with too much wasabi can attest to the tear-inducing sensation these condiments can cause. These loud warnings to the nervous system ...

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.