Researchers have found a new way to restore pancreatic cancer cells to their original state by introducing a protein, thereby offering a potential novel therapeutic approach to combat this highly lethal disease.
"For the first time, we have shown that over-expression of a single gene can reduce the tumor-promoting potential of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells and reprogram them toward their original cell type," said Pamela Itkin-Ansari, adjunct professor at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in the US. "Thus, pancreatic cancer cells retain a genetic memory which we hope to exploit," Itkin-Ansari said.
The study generated human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cell lines to make higher than normal levels of the protein E47. The increased amount of E47 caused the pancreatic cancer cells to revert back towards normal cells.
When the reprogrammed cancer cells were introduced into mice, their ability to form tumors was greatly diminished compared to untreated adenocarcinoma cells.
"Presently, pancreatic adenocarcinoma is treated with cytotoxic agents, yet the average survival for patients post-diagnosis is merely six months, and the improvements in therapies are measured in days," Andrew Lowy, professor of surgery at the University of California San Diego Moores Cancer Center said. "The finding that we can differentiate these cancer cells back to a non-threatening phenotype is encouraging," Lowy said.
The study appeared in the journal Pancreas