A protein that can be modified to improve the effectiveness of one of the most common drugs used to treat pancreatic cancer has been identified by scientists.
The University of Georgia research found that a cell-surface protein called CNT1, which transports cancer-killing drugs into tumor cells, was reduced in function in two thirds of pancreatic tumors.
By improving the function of CNT1, the researchers increased the effectiveness of the cancer-killing drugs in pancreatic tumor cells derived from human patients, said lead-author Raj Govindarajan.
The drug most commonly used to treat pancreatic cancer is called gemcitabine and works by entering into the DNA of cancer cells and stopping replication.
Many pancreatic tumor cells are resistant to gemcitabine, which makes the disease very difficult to treat, explained Govindarajan.
The researchers identified different methods to enhance CNT1 function and slow growth of the tumor cells.
They found that by using additional drugs that inhibit pathways that degrade CNT1, they could partially restore its normal function and transport more gemcitabine into the tumor cells to prevent proliferation of the tumor.
Govindarajan and his colleagues also found that CNT1 was likely regulated by tiny RNA molecules called micro-RNAs.
"We could potentially use micro-RNAs to increase CNT1 expression and increase tumor-cell targeting of gemcitabine," said Govindarajan.
The finding has been published in the March edition of the journal Cancer Research.