Why pancreatic cancer and other malignant types of tumors can disseminate so rapidly?
The FAU researchers have discovered that this aggressive type of tumor activates the key factor of an embryonic programme. This factor, called Zeb1, controls how cells migrate and survive in early embryonic development.
‘Zeb1, the key factor of an embryonic programme ontrols how cells migrate and survive in early embryonic development. Though Zeb1 is blocked in normal, fully developed cells, reactivating it triggers cancer.’
Zeb1 is blocked in normal, fully developed cells. But when the factor is re-activated in cancer cells, it has fatal consequences: The tumor cells disseminate throughout the body and quickly adapt to the changing conditions in their new environment. They can then develop into metastases and form secondary tumors. The cancer assumes an aggressive progression.
If, however, Zeb1 is not activated, cancer cells can no longer adapt to their new environment so easily. This in turn leads to the development of a variant of pancreatic cancer which presents significantly lower metastatic capacity.
This mechanism is also observed in other tumors, such as aggressive forms of breast cancer. The researchers now hope these findings will help them to develop new treatment strategies for combating metastases of pancreatic cancer and other aggressive tumor types.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive tumor types because it starts forming metastases early. The cancer itself, however, is usually only discovered late. This leads to a high patient mortality rate.