PKC-iota (PKCi), an oncogene important in colon and lung cancers, is over-produced in pancreatic cancer and is linked to poor patient survival, a research team has found.
The team at Mayo Clinic campus in Florida has also found that genetically inhibiting PKCi in laboratory animals led to a significant decrease in pancreatic tumour growth and spread.
The researchers say that the discovery is especially encouraging because an experimental agent that targets PKCi is already being tested in patients at Mayo Clinic.
"This is the first study to establish a role for PKCi in growth of pancreatic cancer, so it is exciting to know that an agent already exists that targets PKCi which we can now try in preclinical studies," said the study's senior investigator, Nicole Murray, of the Department of Cancer Biology.
The drug, aurothiomalate, is being tested in a phase I clinical trial in patients with lung cancer at Mayo Clinic's sites in Minnesota and Arizona.
Based on findings to date, a phase II clinical trial is being planned to combine aurothiomalate with agents targeted at other molecules involved in cancer growth.
Dr. Murray stressed that this new study has not tested aurothiomalate against pancreatic cancer yet, but any treatment that targets this major cancer pathway offers a new avenue for therapy.
"This is such a deadly disease. No standard treatment has shown much promise. New ideas and fresh, targeted therapies such as this are sorely needed," she said.
The study has been reported in the March 1 issue of Cancer Research.