Pancreatic Cancer Cells Reprogrammed Into Normal Non-Cancer Cells

Treating pancreatic cancer might now become easier as a new study has tested an alternative method to tackle the disease.

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A new study with amazing results might be the light at the end of the tunnel for the most common form of pancreatic cancer, pancreatic adenocarcinoma, the survival rate of which is 6 months only.

The findings of the study, published in the journal Pancreas, revealed that pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells can be restored back to their previous normal state. The discovery might pave the way for new treatment therapies.

The researchers stimulated lab-grown human pancreatic cancer cells to synthesise an increased quantity of protein E47. E47 is known to bind to a specific DNA sequence that governs the action of genes which are involved in growth and differentiation. Consequently, the cells did not continue to grow and became normal non-cancer cells again. When these reprogrammed cancer cells were then injected into mice, they did not form tumours as much as they used to.

“For the first time, we have shown that overexpression 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, one of the authors of the study. “Thus, pancreatic cancer cells retain a ‘genetic memory’ which we hope to exploit.”

The current treatment methodologies are not adequate enough to tackle the rapid progression of the cancer. This new research, though, might provide an alternative way to deal with it.

“The finding that we can differentiate these cancer cells back to a non-threatening phenotype is encouraging. Indeed, there is a precedent for cell differentiation therapy in that the approach has been used to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) and some neuroblastomas successfully,” explained Andrew M. Lowy, professor of surgery at UC San Diego.

The next step of the study will now be to test cancer cells obtained from patients to determine whether E47 has the same positive effect.

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