Protein could offer therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer

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Nature Cell Biology published findings of a study focused on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. It is the name given to the most common pancreatic cancer. It starts with secretory and tubular cells of the pancreas.

Only 8% of patients survive 5 years after diagnosis. No treatment is possible for this cancer.

Scientists investigated tumor cells, called cancer stem cells. These cells created new tumors and developed into various cell types.

It is crucial to detect the presence of these cells as they precede cancer growth.

The research team discerned the presence of gene expression of these cancer stem cells. They discovered that CD9, a protein, is found on the surface of the tumor. Hence, this protein can become a marker to find these cells.

The team also discovered that this protein contributes to tumor growth. The researchers tested on mice what impact would occur by adapting the amount of the protein. Consequently, the tumors became smaller. The opposite happened when they increased the amount of the protein, tumors became larger.

Clinical data from other trials confirmed that patients with higher levels of the protein have an unfortunate prognosis. Approximately 10% of people with this cancer have large levels of CD9.

“These cells are vital to pancreatic cancer and if even just a few of them survive chemotherapy, the cancer is able to bounce back. We need to find effective ways to remove these cells, and so stop them from fueling cancer growth. However, we need more experiments to validate the importance of CD9 in human pancreatic cancer,” says Victoria Wang, lead author and member of the Adult Stem Cell Laboratory at the Crick.

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