Pancreatic cancer linked to errant reactivation of embryo cell pathway

Research by Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center specialists has uncovered a novel pathway in the origin of pancreatic cancers, one of the deadliest of malignancies. Their findings are reported in the June 23, 2003, issue of Cancer Cell.

Working with cancer cells from 55 patients, the Hopkins team found that a growth signal normally turned off in adult tissues is mistakenly turned back on after injury or inflammation of the pancreas. “We think reactivation may be a first step in initiating pancreatic cancer, well before the onset of any alterations to the pancreatic cells’ genetic material,” says Steven D. Leach, M.D., Paul K. Neumann Professor in Pancreatic Cancer at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins and director of the study.

The Notch pathway, when functioning normally, regulates embryonic development in a wide variety of organisms, ranging from fruit flies to humans. In adult tissues, the pathway becomes dormant as cells become differentiated to perform specialized functions. But, when the pancreas is injured or diseased, Notch signaling may be reactivated in the adult pancreas, resulting in conversion of adult pancreas cells to cells similar to those seen in embryonic pancreas. These primitive cells accumulate in the epithelium, or lining, of the pancreas, setting the stage for the additional genetic changes that lead to cancer. “Using drugs to deactivate the Notch pathway could prevent these cancer-causing events from occurring,” says Leach.

When the researchers evaluated the pancreatic cancer samples at the genetic level, little to no activity of the Notch pathway was observed in normal pancreatic cells, while increased activity was seen in cancer cells and cells in the inflamed pancreas. In addition, the investigators found that when Notch signaling was blocked in test tube studies, they were able to prevent the early cellular changes leading to pancreatic cancer.

The investigators are now attempting to block Notch signaling in mouse models in hopes of developing a strategy for human pancreatic cancer prevention. “Curing pancreatic cancer is difficult. Few patients survive past five years. Preventing it may be the best path to pursue,” says Leach.

Pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates among all cancers. Each year, approximately 30,300 Americans are diagnosed with the disease, and nearly 30,000 die. Often unresponsive to conventional therapies, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death.

In addition to Leach, other investigators include Yoshiharu Miyamoto, Anirban Maitra, Bidyu Ghosh, Ulrich Zechner, Pedram Argani, Christine A. Iacobuzio-Donahue, Virote Sriuranpong, Tatsuya Iso, Ingrid M. Meszoely, Michael S. Wolfe, Ralph H. Hruban, Douglas W. Ball, and Roland M. Schmid.

Media Contact

Valerie Mehl EurekAlert!

Alle Nachrichten aus der Kategorie: Health and Medicine

This subject area encompasses research and studies in the field of human medicine.

Among the wide-ranging list of topics covered here are anesthesiology, anatomy, surgery, human genetics, hygiene and environmental medicine, internal medicine, neurology, pharmacology, physiology, urology and dental medicine.

Zurück zur Startseite

Kommentare (0)

Schreib Kommentar

Neueste Beiträge

Key breakthrough towards on-site cancer diagnosis

No stain? No sweat: Terahertz waves can image early-stage breast cancer without staining. A team of researchers at Osaka University, in collaboration with the University of Bordeaux and the Bergonié…

A CNIO team describes how a virus can cause diabetes

It has recently been described that infection by some enteroviruses – a genus of viruses that commonly cause diseases of varying severity – could potentially trigger diabetes, although its direct…

Targeting the shell of the Ebola virus

UD research team looking at ways to destabilize virus, knock it out with antivirals. As the world grapples with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, another virus has been raging again in…

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close