(RxWiki News) When anything in the body goes into overdrive, trouble usually follows. Genes that are switched to and stay “on” all the time can lead to cancer. A molecular pathway that behaves this way may be a new target for a tough cancer.
Scientists have found a way to turn off a molecular pathway that speeds up pancreatic tumor growth. An existing drug – bortezomib, sold under the name Thalomid – may become useful as a treatment for this cancer.
Bortezomib is currently approved to treat several blood cancers, including multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma.
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This is the discovery of researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida, led by Peter Storz, PhD, a biochemist and molecular biologist.
"Targeting this pathway to decrease the proliferation of cancer cells may represent a new strategy for pancreatic cancer therapy," Dr. Storz said in a statement.
The protein involved is known as the transcription factor NF-kB, which keeps cancer cells reproducing and helps keep them alive. Two pathways – the classical and alternative – activate NF-kB. Both pathways are involved in pancreatic cancer.
This research team focused on the alternative pathway. They discovered this pathway suppresses another molecule – TRAF2 – which promotes accelerated growth in pancreatic tumors.
These findings were tested in 55 samples of human pancreatic cancer. Dr. Stortz says this discovery may lead to the development of a cocktail of medicines, including bortezomib, which could be used to treat pancreatic cancer.
It will take years to develop such a regimen. “Of course, this hypothesis requires extensive clinical testing, but our findings offer a new direction to investigate in improving treatment of pancreatic cancer," according to Dr. Stortz.
Pancreatic cancer was diagnosed in about 44,000 Americans last year. Nearly 37,500 died from the disease.
This study was published January 3 in PLOS ONE.
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) and the Patty Boshell Pancreatic Cancer Foundation supported this work. No conflicts of interest were reported.