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Pancreatic cancer discovery

20th July 2006

29042006_microscope1.jpgAccording to a study published in GUT, Cancer Research UK scientists at the Division of Surgery and Oncology at the University of Liverpool have discovered that a family of proteins found in pancreatic cancer cells may contribute to the aggressive nature of the disease.

The researchers, who were also supported by the North West Cancer Research Fund and the Medical Research Council, were able to track the proteins, called Gelsolin and CapG, in tissue samples from cancerous and normal cells. They found abnormally high concentrations of both proteins in the tumour tissue.

CapG and Gelsolin have roles in regulating cell movement; the study suggests that the involvement of the proteins in moving cells around the body contributes to pancreatic cancer spreading through the pancreas and to other areas of the body.

Dr Eithne Costello and colleagues carried out experiments reducing the amounts of CapG and Gelsolin in pancreatic cancer cells in the laboratory, finding that the spread of cancerous cells could be reduced. They also found that pancreatic cancer patients have better prospects when the level of Gelsolin protein is low or undetectable.

Additionally they made the unexpected discovery that the amount of CapG found in the nucleus of the cancerous cells was proportional to the size of the tumour, which could mean that this protein is closely linked to aggressive tumour growth as well as spread.

Dr Costello said that the results were encouraging, adding "we need to find out their precise contributions to provide us with important leads for new approaches to treatment.?

Each year in the UK around 7,000 people are diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas making it the eleventh most common cancer in the country, most often affecting people in middle and old age. Approximately two thirds of cases diagnosed are in those aged over 70. The incidence in men and women is about the same. Surgery and chemotherapy offer a survival advantage, but only around nine per cent of patients undergo potentially curative surgery.

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