Zinc has been shown to be a likely tumor suppressor in the commonest form of pancreatic cancer by scientists from University of Maryland.
"The report establishes for the first time, with direct measurements in human pancreatic tissue, that the level of zinc is markedly lower in pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells as compared with normal pancreas cells," said lead author Leslie Costello, PhD, professor, Department of Oncology and Diagnostic Sciences, University of Maryland School of Dentistry (SOD).
The researchers detected a decrease in zinc in cells at the beginning stages and at the advancing stages of cancer.
"The fundamental implication is that we now know something about the development of pancreatic cancer that was not previously known," Costello said.
"It provides a potential approach to treatment, that is, to find a way to get zinc back into the malignant cells, which will kill them," he added.
The scientists further uncovered an important genetic factor that may eventually play into developing an early diagnostic tool.
Malignant cells shut down a zinc-transporting molecule called ZIP3, which is responsible for guiding zinc through the cell membrane and into the cells.
In essence, the researchers have discovered an early genetic/metabolic change in the development of pancreatic cancer.
Cancer researchers previously did not know that the ZIP3 gene expression is lost in malignant pancreatic cells, resulting in lower zinc.
The study was reported in the current issue of the journal Cancer Biology and Therapy.