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Mayo Clinic discovers 'new pathway' against pancreatic cancer

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Pancreatic cancer kills 30,000 Americans every year. Not only is there no cure, but there are no effective treatments. That may change if a new finding by Mayo Clinic researchers continues to show promise. In the March 15 issue of the journal Cancer Research, (http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/future/65.6.shtml) investigators describe discovering a key molecule that controls the growth, spread and survival of pancreatic cancer cells. This is a critical first step toward developing new and better treatments for patients with pancreatic cancer.

"This is a very exciting -- and surprising -- finding," says Daniel Billadeau, Ph.D., lead author of the report. To identify new target molecules with potentially therapeutic impact for a cancer for which there is currently no real useful treatment is incredibly important.

"Based on the literature, you would predict the opposite of what we found. But in fact, we determined that we can decrease a known regulator of cancer cell survival -- in effect, turn this regulator off -- and when we do, the pancreatic cancer cells undergo apoptosis (commit cell suicide) and die."

Significance of the Research

  • With this finding, a new path is cleared for researchers to target these key molecular players with new small molecule inhibitors to block their action, effectively turning off molecules that promote pancreatic cancer growth.

  • The finding may be applied to make pancreatic cells more sensitive to gemcitabine, the sole drug available for treating pancreatic cancer.

  • This discovery may lead to new drug development strategies for other cancers. Additional research will tell whether these same actors play a similar role in the spread of other cancer types.

    The Key Finding

    The Mayo Clinic researchers discovered a previously unrecognized role in pancreatic cancer for
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  • Contact: Bob Nellis
    newsbureau@mayo.edu
    507-284-5005
    Mayo Clinic
    15-Mar-2005


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