Posts tagged ‘pancreatic cancer’

Pancreatic cancer is a deadly disease that, as per the estimation of National Cancer Institute, has affected more than 43,000 Americans in 2010. And the fact that 36,000 died from it does not help matter either.

Though genetic science has advanced by leaps and bounds over the years, scientists are still at a loss to unravel the complex signaling pathway that pancreatic cancer takes in humans.

But a new study has thrown some light on the same. A team of researchers have resorted to a simple organism (a common roundworm) and discovered how the Ras oncogene chooses a signaling pathway and how the consequences of that choice play out in cellular development. This is a significant issue in cancer that is characterized by uncontrolled cell growth.

The team leader Channing Der explains that the cell signaling pathways are very complex in humans. Ras can opt to interact with more than 20 various partners besides the chief proteins Raf and RalGEF. In C. elegans, there is only one of each protein. This eased out the complexity and helped the researchers identify how Ras chooses a partner.

They found that Ras’ choices lead to different fates for the cell. It can help them identify if similar mechanisms work in determining how Ras causes pancreatic cancer. ‘Worm’ cells share a good deal of functional overlap with the cells of humans. Nevertheless, in a roundworm there is only one mechanism at work contrary to multiple mechanisms in humans. But the C. elegans model may be instrumental in helping the scientists find new therapeutic targets for pancreatic cancer.


Scientists at The Peggy and Charles Stephenson Oklahoma Cancer Center have come out with a way to prevent the growth of pancreatic cancer and stop it at its early stage. CV Rao had his team have proven that a drug called Gefitinib can help with pancreatic cancer.

This drug is used in later stages of the cancer but the team has proved that if used early in minute doses then this drug can possibly stop the growth of pancreatic cancer. The research has been published in the latest issue of the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

In an experiment, scientists were able to not only curb the growth of pancreatic cancer with Gefitinib but also completely treat the disease. These findings can be effective against early treatment of pancreatic cancer since the survival rate at the later stages is as low as 6 percent.

Though, the disease is usually identified at a later stage, the scientists are trying to figure out how best to detect it at an earlier stage. This drug is already approved for human use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and now the scientists can begin a Phase II clinical trial within the next 18 months.

Gefitinib targets signals of a certain gene that mutates when pancreatic center is present. There is also a possibility that this drug could be used effectively for other forms of cancer such as lung and colorectal cancer and other major diseases. However, more work needs to be done at the moment.


Carcinoma of the pancreas is considered to be one of the most lethal forms of the disease. However, the researchers explained that the disease killed swiftly simply because its slow progression caused the most obvious symptoms to remain undetected until it was too late.

Dr. Bert Vogelstein the leader of the study and associated with the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore said that the detection of the cancer within the first 20 years will provide the doctors a chance of curing it completely by means of surgery.

Vogelstein’s team conducted a joint research with the British researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the Cambridge University. They dug through various pancreatic tumors by collecting the tissue samples as soon as the autopsies were conducted on patients who had succumbed to the carcinoma of the pancreas.  Tissues from the surgically removed cancerous tumors were also studied. These samples had been taken from three patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The researchers published their findings in two papers of the ‘Nature’ journal. They tried to clock the evolution of the tumor at the molecular level by utilizing the various mutations of the tumors. The DNA mutations can be calculated perfectly and the researchers could easily identify the mutations due to pancreatic cancer. The DNA from
the primary tumors were then compared to the secondary ones that had developed in the liver or elsewhere in the body.

Vogelstein formulated a plan of creating a family tree noting the mutations of the genes in successive generations.  However, the most difficult part appears to be screening for pancreatic cancer.  The tumors can hardly be spotted before they get to be too big and even then the process for removing them is complicated indeed.


Researchers from the USA have now found certain changes associated with the blood of patients suffering from two different types of deadly carcinoma. This discovery can prove to be significant as it allows doctors to detect the disease much earlier.

A new technique was used by the privately held company Somalogic Inc’s researchers which allowed them to detect the early signs of pancreatic as well as a specific type of lung cancer, known as mesothelioma, in people who had been diagnosed but had not started on their treatment yet. The findings were presented at the Denver Research meeting of the ‘American Association for Cancer’.  Somalogic Inc’s Clinical Research Director, Rachel Ostroff, expressed the hope that an early detection might lead to an increased survival rate with an overall improvement in the quality of life as well.

While carcinoma of the pancreas is rare, it is the fourth deadliest type of cancer that kills people across USA. Mesothelioma, on the other hand, is caused by asbestos and is known to be the cause of death for an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people worldwide, every year.

The technology detects the disease by examining the protein present in a blood drop. The study involved testing patients diagnosed with both the types of cancer and also those who suffer from pancreatitis or lung fibrosis, two conditions which mimic the symptoms of these particular types of cancer.

The research team looked for biomarkers which differentiated between the blood of the patients with cancer and those without.  Ostroff said that that the biological markers had been highly specific leading to an accurate detection of each type of cancer. Further studies are now required to corroborate the results and see whether they can be used as diagnostic tests. Ostroff admitted that while the biomarkers could be easily detected it would be slightly more difficult to validate them. She also stated that her team would take all necessary precautions by ignoring the false positives and take all other related parameters into consideration for detecting the diseased biomarkers.