The most common type of pancreatic cancer is 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.
Scientists from the Francis Crick Institute found that a protein drives the growth of this type of pancreatic cancer and that it could be a target for new treatments.
The research is published in Nature Cell Biology and was conducted by Axel Behrens et al.
In the study, the team 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.
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 team further showed that this protein is not just a marker of cancer stem cells, but also promotes their malignant behavior.
They 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.
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.
For more information about cancer risk, please see recent studies about drug that can strengthen immune system to fight cancer, and results showing Aspirin may boost survival in cancers.
Copyright © 2022 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.