Monthly Archives: April 2015

Scientists reverse #PancreaticCancer cells to normal cells in lab

Pancreatic cancer cells can be reversed back into normal cells by introducing a protein called E47 that controls genes involved in growth and differentiation, a U.S. study suggested Monday.

The findings may lead to a potential new treatment for pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest and most aggressive forms of cancer, which killed Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

“For the first time, we have shown that over expression of a single gene can reduce the tumor-promoting potential of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells and reprogram them toward their original cell type,” said Pamela Itkin-Ansari, adjunct professor at the Sanford- Burnham Medical Research Institute and lead author of the study published in the journal Pancreas.

“Thus, pancreatic cancer cells retain a genetic memory which we hope to exploit.”

For the study, Itkin-Ansari and colleagues generated human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cell lines to make higher than normal levels of E47, which caused cells to stall in the early growth phase, and differentiate back toward an acinar cell phenotype.

When the reprogrammed cancer cells were introduced into mice, their ability to form tumors was greatly diminished compared to untreated adenocarcinoma cells, the researchers found.

Currently, pancreatic adenocarcinoma, the most common form of pancreatic cancer, is treated with cytotoxic agents, yet the average survival for patients post-diagnosis is merely six months, and the improvements in therapies are measured in days, according to co-author Andrew Lowy, professor of surgery at the University of California San Diego.

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Ottawa scientists to fight silent killer of #PancreaticCancer with viruses?


One of Ottawa’s premier research scientists has published a study that points to viruses as an important ally in the fight against pancreatic cancer, a disease known as a “silent killer” because its early symptoms often go unnoticed.

People diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have a five-year survival rate of just six per cent. That survival rate — the lowest among all common cancer types — has not improved in the past four decades.

Major surgery remains the only way of curing pancreatic cancer, but it’s usually performed only if the tumour has not spread beyond the organ. In most cases (85 per cent), the cancer is not detected early enough to make surgery viable.

Pancreatic cancer is also resistant to conventional treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, because of the unusual architecture of the tumours, which have a heavy concentration of stromal cells. The cells interact with pancreatic cancer cells, protect the tumour, and promote its growth.

In a study released Monday, however, Ottawa researchers say that the same biology that makes pancreatic tumours so robust also makes them vulnerable to attack by engineered viruses.

“The reason we’re so excited about these viruses is that they take advantage of the same things that the tumour uses to become a really good tumour: They exploit those for therapeutic benefit,” said Dr. John Bell, an Ottawa Hospital Research Institute senior scientist, who co-authored the study with post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Carolina Ilkow, and others.

Published in Nature Medicine, the study describes experiments designed to better understand the “ecosystem” of pancreatic tumours, which include complex networks of stromal and malignant cells. Stromal cells normally help maintain tissue, but can be co-opted by cancer cells to promote tumour growth.

Researchers isolated the cell types and studied them, then studied how they interacted with each other and with viruses. Much to their surprise, they discovered that the interaction between stromal and malignant cells made them more vulnerable to viral infection.

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Study shows promise of MRI-based screening for Pancreatic Cancer

Short-term results of an MRI-based screening program for patients at high risk of pancreatic cancer, published online in JAMA Surgery, showed the program was able to identify pancreatic lesions in 40 percent of patients, ultimately leading to surgery in five patients.

While the study population was not large and the study time was relatively short, the results show the potential benefits of a screening program for at-risk patients.

“An MRI-based protocol for the surveillance of individuals at risk for developing pancreatic cancer seems to detect cancer or premalignant lesions with good accuracy,” wrote authors Marco Del Chiaro, MD, PhD, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and colleagues. “The exclusive use of MRI can reduce costs, increase availability and guarantee the safety of the individuals under surveillance compared with protocols that are based on more aggressive methods.”

The study included 40 patients (24 women) with an average age of 49.9 years, who were referred based on genetic risk of developing pancreatic cancer between Jan. 1, 2010, and Jan. 31, 2013. Risk was determined by family history and the presence of common genetic mutation associated with pancreatic cancer. A total of 38 patients had a family history of the disease, and several patients had BRCA2, BRCA1 or p16 gene mutations.

The average follow-up was 12.9 months, and MRI was repeated after one year if initial screening was negative. Screening was repeated at six months if there were unspecific findings or findings that did not indicate surgery.

MRI-based screening found pancreatic lesions in 16 patients; intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasia, which might progress to invasive cancer, in 14 patients; and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma in two patients. Of the patients requiring surgery, three were referred for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and two for intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasia.

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*credit verbatim via and Evan Godt*

Novel Pancreatic Cancer Drug May Serve Against Ascites Fluid

Ascites is the buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity that occurs in patients with certain diseases. Ascites caused by cancer is called malignant ascites and accounts for 10% of people with ascites. Malignant ascites appears most often in people with breast, colon, liver, gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestines), and ovarian, pancreatic, and uterine cancers. Research being performed by TD2 and being funded by Silver Spring Maryland-based PharmaCyte Biotech, Inc., a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on developing targeted treatments for cancer and diabetes using its signature live-cell encapsulation technology, Cell-in-a-Box®, is designed to determine whether PharmaCyte Biotech’s pancreatic cancer treatment can slow the accumulation of malignant ascites fluid. This pancreatic cancer treatment is a combination of low doses of the cancer prodrug ifosfamide coupled with Cell-in-a-Box® capsules containing live cells capable of converting ifosfamide into its cancer-killing form.

In an initial study, mice given an aggressive human ovarian cancer (ES-2), which produces significant amounts of malignant ascites fluid, were divided into 4 groups. There were 10 mice in each group. The mice in Group 1 served as a control group. Group 2 was made up of mice treated with PharmaCyte Biotech’s pancreatic cancer treatment. Group 3 was treated with cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug often used to treat ovarian cancer. Group 4 was treated with a combination of PharmaCyte Biotech’s pancreatic cancer treatment and cisplatin.

A follow-up study will use the same ES-2 ovarian cancer model. In this study, the mice will be divided into 12 different treatment groups, with 10 mice in each group. The follow-up study is designed to better define the parameters that will be needed to design a future Phase 1 clinical trial in humans that suffer from malignant ascites fluid accumulation as a result of their abdominal cancers. This follow-up study, also designed by pancreatic cancer expert Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff in conjunction with scientists affiliated with PharmaCyte Biotech, will be conducted by TD2 in the U.S.

“We are looking forward to the results of this expanded preclinical study of the effectiveness of our pancreatic cancer treatment in reducing the rate of malignant ascites fluid accumulation in the abdomen. If successful, it could quickly lead to a clinical trial in patients with abdominal tumors such as in the case of ovarian cancer, who suffer from this very serious cancer-associated malady,” commented Kenneth L. Waggoner, Chief Executive Officer of PharmaCyte Biotech.

Researchers at PharmaCyte Biotech expect that their pancreatic cancer treatment will ultimately prove to be effective in slowing the accumulation of malignant ascites fluid and, thus, reduce the number of withdrawals of the fluid that patients must endure over a given period of time. The hope is to help patients who face accumulation of ascites fluid, which is problematic for patients with an abdominal cancer, because it is painful and can cause breathing and other serious problems. Once ascites fluid gets to a certain level, it must be removed on a regular basis. This procedure in itself is very uncomfortable for patients and costly.

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Scientists: Zebrafish could hold key to fighting pancreatic cancer


Scientists at the Translational Genomics Research Institute got a much-anticipated delivery one week ago.

The tadpole looking creatures are actually baby Zebrafish. The fish just hatched and are only a few days old.

It might be hard to believe, but humans have a lot in common with Zebrafish. They share about 70 percent of our genetic code.

“That is amazing. Just think about how small the fish is,” Dr. Haiyong Han said.

Han is an associate professor in the clinical translational research division at TGen and said it only takes Zebrafish a few months to mature. An adult is little over an inch long.

“It’s small and translucent so you can see through the skin of the fish,” Han said.

Han said that’s a big advantage when it comes to research. By using a microscope, scientists can watch cancer tumors develop in real time. They can also see effects of different treatments.

This particular study will be used to complement other research TGen is doing on pancreatic cancer.

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How Banishing Negative Thoughts Helped Me Beat Pancreatic Cancer, Twice


The power of positivity: How banishing negative thoughts helped me beat pancreatic cancer, twice

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal human diseases known to man. Each year, more than 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and 95 percent die within the next 12 months. Steve Jobs, Patrick Swayze, opera singer Luciano Pavarotti: These celebrities all died from pancreatic cancer.

Because survival rates are low, and treatment options are limited and usually ineffective, pancreatic cancer can be deadly to the body and spirit, and considered tantamount to a death sentence. But that doesn’t have to be the case: I survived the most lethal type of this disease— not once, but twice.

Persevering through that second bout— a spread of this cancer to my liver after a long period of remission— is virtually miraculous and defies clear explanation. I have been physically fit and active my entire life, and was treated by superbly trained doctors at one of the best hospitals in America, but so have many others whose lives have been claimed by this horrible ailment.

Those factors undoubtedly helped me beat another round of pancreatic cancer, but, equally important, so did my attitude.

Instead of succumbing to defeat, I made a deliberate decision to stay upbeat during my illness, which was a life-altering challenge amidst my diagnosis and all the brutal treatment, including two major surgeries— one more complex than a heart transplant— experimental radiation, conventional radiation and chemotherapy. I detailed my choice to remain positive while battling cancer in my recently published book, “The Ripple Effect: How a Positive Attitude and a Caring Community Helped Save My Life.”

My wife, Karen, was instrumental in this attitude change. Right before my second diagnosis was confirmed, she reminded me how much we’d been through and how important it was to be as positive as we could to get through everything together with grace. I made it my priority to survive— next, I had to figure out how to move toward this goal.

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*credit verbatim via and Steven Lewis*