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Research Takes Aim at Pancreatic Cancer

Discovery and testing in mice may lead to better detection and treatment

SATURDAY, April 18, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- An active receptor found in certain pancreatic cancers might offer hope for treatment of the often fatal disease.

A third of human pancreatic cancers looked at by Johns Hopkins University researchers contained a malfunctioning phosophorylated epidermal growth factor receptor (pEGFR), which previous studies had noted as being active in some lung cancers. When mice with this type of pancreatic cancer were given erlotinib, an EGFR-inhibitor drug approved for lung cancer treatment, the pancreatic tumors shrank, according to a news release from Experimental Biology 2009, a program of the American Society for Investigative Pathology.

Hopkins pathologist Dr. Akhilesh Pandey, who made the discovery, was expected to present the findings Saturday in New Orleans at the conference.

Although epidermal growth factor inhibitors had previously been tested as a pancreatic cancer treatment, Pandey and his team re-examined the studies and found that only one of 12 cancer samples tested contained the active pEGFR receptor.

The finding could lead to a biomarker detection tool for pancreatic cancer as well as a new treatment for these types of pancreatic cancers, Pandey said in the news release. His team is now reviewing scientific literature to compile a list of the proteins and genes known to be overexpressed in pancreatic cancers that should be considered future treatment targets.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about pancreatic cancer.

SOURCE: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, news release, April 18, 2009
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