New tumor markers -- 'Spot the differences'

This release is available in Spanish.

The term cancer (from the Greek karkinos, which means sea crab) was used for the first time by Greek doctor Hippocrates five hundred years b.C. to define the tumours that he observed in his patients. Nowadays it is still difficult to diagnose, and prognosis is bad. Cancer is already the main cause of death in many countries, ranking even above cardiovascular diseases.

Pancreatic cancer (PC), the subject of this thesis, has the poorest prognosis of all cancers: the survival rate after five years with the disease is less than 5% and on average, patients who have been diagnosed with it do not live longer than six months.

The modus operandi of cells is well known: the genes (DNA) are the masterminds of the system and their role is to give orders. Those orders are transmitted in the form of messages (RNA), which ultimately become molecules that do the work (proteins). Since all cells have similar genes, they are all able to give the same range of orders. However, depending on their role and the signs and information they receive from their surroundings, each cell type sends only specific messages at any one time. While in normal cells this process is carried out following an organized pattern, this pattern of messages changes completely in cancer cells. When pancreatic cells transform into cancer cells, they abandon their usual functions and start sending abnormal messages, which encourage them to quickly divide and invade nearby tissues.

The aim of this PhD was to intercept messages sent by cancerous pancreatic cells and compare them with those sent by healthy pancreatic cells. This comparison would indicate which orders (messages) are the ones that make the cancer grow and invade and which weapons (proteins) it uses to do so. In order to carry out this work we used microarrays or DNA-chips

Contact: Garazi Andonegi
Elhuyar Fundazioa

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