A protein provides protection against the effects of alcohol in the pancreas, researchers from Cardiff University have discovered.
The findings of the study could lead to the development of new treatments to reduce the chances of people developing pancreatic cancer.
The protein, calmodulin, is involved in the basic processes that take place in all cells, the building blocks of the body. This study reveals that when calmodulin is missing from cells in the pancreas, alcohol has a much greater toxic effect as a chain reaction which causes cells to self destruct speeds up. This can lead to inflammation (pancreatitis), which in the long-term significantly increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of death through cancer, and only three per cent of patients survive beyond five years.
The study team, led by Professor Ole Petersen, found that calmodulin protects pancreatic cells against alcohol's toxic effects when it is activated by another small protein, CALP-3.
Professor Petersen said: "There is a strong correlation between alcohol intake and incidence of pancreatitis, and we hope that our new findings will eventually lead to the development of drugs to combat this. This is a key step forward."