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Dartmouth researchers advance fight against pancreatic cancer

LEBANON, NH -- Two Dartmouth medical studies have produced promising results in the fight against pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly and aggressive forms of cancer, and may lead to the development of new, highly targeted therapies to manage previously untreatable tumors.

In two trials targeting some of the most challenging traits of pancreatic tumor cell growth, researchers from Dartmouth Medical School (DMS) and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) have demonstrated success in slowing and preventing tumor development.

The NCCC research team was led by Dr. Murray Korc, a pioneer in early research on growth factor receptors in pancreatic cancer, and chair of the department of medicine at DMS and DHMC. An endocrinologist and cancer biologist, he focuses much of his research on the mechanisms that make pancreatic cancer so resilient and aggressive. Work reported in the May 15 issues of Clinical Cancer Research and Cancer Research addresses the team's latest advances.

Pancreatic cancer is characteristic for its ability to spread quickly, while becoming increasingly resistant to traditional chemotherapy. Generally diagnosed in an advanced state, it is frequently inoperable. As a result, it is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in adults in the US, killing more than 30,000 Americans every year, says Korc.

"By the time the disease is diagnosed, pancreatic cancer cells have a huge growth advantage over normal cells, which enables them to grow and metastasize very quickly," said Korc. "Our research has focused on determining what factors enable the cells to grow at such a fast rate and then how to slow that rate down and actually suppress pancreatic tumor growth."

Korc likens the disease to speeding in a car with an accelerator that is stuck to the floor. "Naturally, you apply the brakes but they don't work, so you begin pumping the brakes to slow the car down. The brak
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Contact: Andy Nordhoff
DMS.Communications@Dartmouth.edu
603-653-1969
Dartmouth Medical School
15-May-2004


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