Extending Life of People with Pancreatic Cancer

Metastatic pancreatic cancer may be stalled by targeting Ncadherin

(RxWiki News) Pancreatic cancer is one of the toughest forms of cancer to treat and beat. Progress is being made, though, in slowing the most serious form of the disease.

A protein that's found on the surface of cells plays a key role in pancreatic cancer metastasizing (spreading). Researchers have found that blocking this protein known as N-cadherin can slow metastasis and extend the lives of mice.

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Medical investigators at Thomas Jefferson University's Center for Translational Medicine realized in a recent study that playing with the levels of N-cadherin in pancreatic cancer cells interferes with their ability to travel.

A mouse model was genetically engineered and used for the study. Investigators reduced the level of N-cadherin in this model and discovered that tumor progression was slowed and the lives of the mice were prolonged by 25 percent.

Pancreatic cancer cells are unpredictable. Without warning, they can hitch a ride through other cells to wander far and wide throughout the body. They rely on endothelial cells, which found on the inside lining of blood and lymph vessels, and behave sort of like a subway to get cells where they want to go.

And N-cadherin - which is found on the surface of cancer cells - acts sort of like a train conductor in the spread of pancreatic cancer. Researchers found that if this protein can be tripped up, the metastasis could potentially be prevented, which in turn would significantly prolong the lives of patients.

Glenn Radice, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine at Jefferson's Center for Translational Medicine, and co-author of the study, says these findings are "very exciting because a drug, known as ADH-1 [Exherin], that specifically targets N-cadherin is already in clinical trial for melanoma."

Radice says the next step involves using Exherin or another N-cadherin blocking drug to see if it can significantly prolong the lives of mice.

Findings from this study were published online in December in Nature's Oncogene.

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Review Date: 
December 30, 2011