A research team led by Indian origin scientist has identified a potential target for pancreatic cancer, one of the most fatal cancers.
Akhilesh Pandey, a Johns Hopkins University pathologist has identified an epidermal growth factor receptor, which has found to be aberrantly active in approximately a third of the 250 human pancreatic cancers studied.
The team has found a phosophorylated epidermal growth factor receptor (pEGFR), which is closely related to HER-2, a growth factor receptor found and used as a drug target in a subset of breast cancers.
After he found and profiled the pEGFR activated in the pancreatic cancers, Dr. Pandey realized the same receptor had been found by other researchers to be activated in a subset of lung cancers.
And, most promising, an EGFR inhibitor named erlotinib is used for treatment of these specific lung cancers.
During the research, the researchers used mice in which human pancreatic tumour cells with activated EGFT had been placed. The tumours began growing.
But when treated with erlotinib, they began to shrink. Other tumours without activated pECFR showed no response.
Dr. Pandey said that the promise - and the challenge - of using pEGFR is that of personalized medicine.
Earlier studies in other laboratories and clinical trials already had tried EGF inhibitors as a treatment for pancreatic cancer and concluded that they did not work.
However, when Dr. Pandey's collaborators allowed them to re-examine their samples, they found that the only case in 12 cases that had responded to the EGF inhibitor was the only case with an activated EGF receptor.
Dr Pandey plans to use mass spectrometry to find additional markers of pancreatic cancer in the tumours themselves but also in blood and urine, which would avoid the problems of invasive biopsies.