Scientists discover what drives the most common pancreatic cancer

In a new study, researchers have identified a protein that drives the growth of pancreatic cancer and which could be a target for new treatments.

The research was conducted by a team at the Francis Crick Institute.

The study looked into the most common type of pancreatic cancer, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

This is aggressive cancer that develops from secretory and tubular cells of the pancreas.

There are no effective therapies to treat this cancer and only 8% of patients survive beyond five years after diagnosis.

In the study, the researchers analyzed a specific group of tumor cells, called cancer stem cells.

Similar to how healthy human stem cells repair tissues and organs, these cells have the ability to start new tumors and they can also differentiate into different types of tumor cells.

As these cells are a driving force behind cancer growth, being able to identify if they are present is an important step towards the development of new treatments.

By analyzing the gene expression of these cancer stem cells, the team found that a protein, called CD9, is present on their surface both when the tumor is developing and when it is more established.

This protein could, therefore, be used as a marker to help locate these cells.

The study further showed that this protein is not just a marker of cancer stem cells, but also promotes their malignant behavior.

The researchers altered the amount of CD9 in tumor cells in mice and found that when the levels of this protein were reduced, smaller tumors formed.

Conversely, increasing levels of CD9 made cancer cells more aggressive and able to form large tumors quickly.

These findings were supported by existing clinical data showing that patients whose tumor cells have more CD9 have a poorer clinical prognosis.

About 10% of people with this type of cancer have amplified levels of CD9.

To understand the mechanism behind how CD9 bolsters cancer, the team looked into the cancer stem cells’ metabolism.

Their findings showed that CD9 increases the rate cells take up glutamine, an amino acid that helps provide energy for cancer to grow.

The team says the finding could guide the development of new treatments that are targeted at the protein and so cut off the supply of glutamine to cancer stem cells, effectively starving cancer.

The lead author of the study is Axel Behrens, corresponding author and group leader in the Adult Stem Cell Laboratory at the Crick.

The study is published in Nature Cell Biology.

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