Two drugs can reverse a key step in pancreatic cancer

Credit: Atari Betamax/ Unsplash

According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 60,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, and only about 1 in 10 of those diagnosed will survive the next five years.

The disease ranks as the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. because it is rarely detected in the early stages when treatment options are most effective.

In a study from the University of Florida, scientists found two drugs reverse a key pancreatic cancer step in the lab.

Pancreatic cancer often lurks as a silent disease. With no known symptoms, it can progress undetected and spread to other organs.

In the study, the researchers identified two small molecules that inhibit precancerous cell progression.

The molecules also reversed a process known as acinar ductal metaplasia, or ADM, which precedes pancreatic cancer.

This is the first time researchers have been able to pharmacologically reverse ADM.

With these compounds, scientists could potentially treat a pancreatic cancer patient at an earlier stage of the disease and hopefully improve the treatment options available.

ADM often occurs when inflammation is present. It is a defense mechanism to avoid having the pancreas make too many digestive enzymes and destroy itself.

During ADM, stable, enzyme-making acinar cells turn into protective ductal cells that line the pancreatic duct.

If certain genes mutate during the transition, then the cells can become precancerous and eventually develop into cancer.

To study ADM, the scientists built a laboratory model using animal cells with pancreatic cancer and tissue from a healthy human.

They introduced the cells to two compounds. The ductal cells responded by changing back to acinar cells. Pancreatic cancer can be prevented when acinar cells are maintained in their natural state.

The findings are significant because we have now demonstrated that ADM can be reversed using drugs.

This research may lead to developing treatments for patients who are at high risk for pancreatic cancer development.

If you care about cancer, please read studies about new vaccine to prevent pancreatic cancer, and new cancer vaccines eliminate tumors and prevent cancer recurrence.

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 these cancers.

The study was conducted by Tom Schmittgen et al and published in Cell Death Discovery.

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