Monthly Archives: May 2015

Tumor Molecule Discovered That Causes Spread of #PancreaticCancer

A single molecule switches on metastasis, or spread, in pancreas cancers, reports new research led by scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The researchers predict that testing for this molecule, called RUNX3, could soon help oncologists choose the most appropriate treatments based on the metastatic potential of each patient’s disease.

“We’re defining a readout that may help doctors in their approach to treatment of patients who have pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Martin “Marty” Whittle, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Sunil Hingorani and first author on the paper, which was published online today in the journal Cell. “The gene that we identified can be used to give some insight as to whether a patient’s tumor is more likely to grow locally or metastasize.”

RUNX3, the researchers found, controls the activation of numerous genes involved in metastasis in a mouse model, triggering cancer cells to migrate to other parts of the body and turning on genes that help those metastatic cells take root and thrive once they invade distant tissues.

“It’s extraordinary — it seems to control an entire metastatic program,” said Hingorani, the senior researcher on the study and a physician-scientist at Fred Hutch who specializes in pancreatic cancer. “RUNX3 serves to both expel the seed and prepare the soil.”

Pancreatic cancer has the highest metastatic drive of any malignancy, Hingorani said. By the time they are diagnosed, most pancreas cancer patients already have either metastatic disease or tumors that have grown too much to be surgically removed. Even when patients’ tumors are contained, making them eligible for surgery or focused radiation, many of them end up dying of metastatic cancer anyway — because their apparently localized tumors had nevertheless already started spreading to other sites.

For this reason, oncologists often treat patients who have early-stage pancreas tumors with chemotherapy before surgery in the hopes of killing off any distant microscopic metastases and prolonging life. But in the time it takes for a few rounds of chemo, almost a third of surgically removable tumors grow too large to be eligible for surgery, a “devastating” outcome, said Hingorani, which slashes patients’ average survival time from two years for a removable tumor to less than 11 months for a non-operable tumor.

By predicting a tumor’s metastatic behavior, doctors could choose the type of treatment that gives their patients the best chance at the longest survival time, Hingorani said.

“Even as we hope to develop more rational and targeted therapies for pancreas cancer, we can and must more intelligently apply the treatment modalities we have now,” he said. “And understanding how and when to use chemotherapy and radiation in the ideal context has the potential to impact patient survival and quality of life in the near term.”

With the caveat that they still must be validated in humans, Hingorani believes that his team’s findings will do just this.

“I haven’t found a compelling explanation yet for the unusual metastatic drive of pancreas cancer, and certainly not one that would reconcile some of the paradoxes that exist both in the fundamental biology but also in treatment response in patients,” Hingorani said. “So for us, the thing that, on one hand, was worth the many years we spent studying it and why we finally felt ready to communicate it to the world, is that it helps us understand both the biology of the disease and ― most excitingly I think ― it might soon influence what we do in the clinic.”

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Ginger May Be Stronger Than Chemo?


Cancer is one of humankind’s greatest modern scourges. We subject ourselves to horrifically toxic treatments to try to stem its assault, but it still claims millions of victims every year. However, there are several studies that have shown that an all-natural remedy made of ginger root could be more effective against certain types of cancer than more harmful interventions like chemotherapy and radiation.

In 2007, the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine published a study that demonstrated ginger’s ability to combat ovarian cancer, which is the most deadly cancer of the female reproductive system, according to the American Cancer Society. The ginger works by blocking the cancer from growing, limiting its ability to spread.

“Ginger inhibits growth and modulates secretion of angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells,” the study states. “The use of dietary agents such as ginger may have potential in the treatment and prevention of ovarian cancer.”

Another study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center discovered an even more promising effect — ginger actually caused the death of ovarian cancer cells in a lab. The breakthrough could be truly groundbreaking, since cancer that is treated with chemo has a tendency to recur and can build up resistance to it over time. If ginger can kill the cancer outright, that’s a far better solution.

Then, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2012 found that ginger also shows extraordinary effects against prostrate cancer, which will afflict one in six men in the United States.

“Whole ginger extract (GE) exerts significant growth-inhibitory and death-inductory effects in a spectrum of prostate cancer cells,” the study states. “Comprehensive studies have confirmed that GE perturbed cell-cycle progression, impaired reproductive capacity, modulated cell-cycle and apoptosis regulatory molecules and induced a caspase-driven, mitochondrially mediated apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells.”

In other words, the ginger actually tricks the cancer cells into killing themselves. As a result, it shrank prostate tumors by an average of 56 percent.

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*credit verbatim via and Aaron Kase*

Researchers reveal how #PancreaticCancer spreads to liver

Researchers reveal how pancreatic cancer spreads to the liver

An international team led by Weill Cornell Medical College investigators has illuminated the precise molecular steps that enable pancreatic cancer to spread to the liver — the event that makes the most common form of the disease lethal. By understanding this process, investigators say their discovery can lead to targeted treatments that delay metastasis, and could offer clinicians a new biomarker to test for the earliest signs of pancreatic cancer.

The study, published May 18 in Nature Cell Biology, focuses on the role of small, spherical tumor-secreted packages, called exosomes, which contain tumor-derived proteins, in preparing a liver microenvironment fertile for pancreatic cancer metastasis.

Nearly 49,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and more than 40,000 of them will succumb to it, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society. Pancreatic cancers are among the most lethal cancers — only six percent of patients survive five years after diagnosis, with the median survival rate being just six months.

“What makes this cancer so lethal is that patients don’t generally become symptomatic — and as such aren’t diagnosed — until the cancer is very advanced and treatment options are limited,” said senior author Dr. David Lyden, the Stavros S. Niarchos Professor in Pediatric Cardiology and a professor of pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College.

In the study, the investigators recreated the environment for pancreatic cancer using mouse models and discovered that exosomes were finding their way to the liver during the cancer’s earliest stages. Once in the liver, the exosomes were taken up by resident immune cells, called Kupffer cells. This process changed the Kupffer cells’ gene expression and protein composition, and educated them to produce a powerful protein. This protein, in turn, affected the behavior of a group of cells, inducing liver fibrosis. Liver fibrosis is an overly exuberant wound healing process that can interfere with normal liver function, and creates a microenvironment auspicious for tumor seeding and growth.

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Can Vitamin D level increase your #PancreaticCancer risk?

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to detect early on and treat effectively because many patients do not develop symptoms until they are in the advanced stages of the disease. The symptoms can sometimes be very vague, but they may include upper abdominal pain radiating through your back, changes in skin color, loss of appetite and weight loss. The causes of pancreatic cancer are not clearly understood; however there are risk factors for the disease such as chronic inflammation of the pancreases, diabetes, smoking, excessive alcohol abuse and some genetic syndromes.

A diagnosis can be made through imaging such as a CAT scans or an MRI, as well as through some endoscopic procedures that can evaluate the pancreas. Sometimes a biopsy is necessary to look at the tumor itself. Traditional treatment for pancreatic cancer may include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Recently we’ve seen clinical trials with experimental gene therapies and new approaches to surgical options. However, despite medical advancements, the prognoses for pancreatic cancer patients in advanced stages is still very guarded. That is why I am very interested in a new study that investigated a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk for pancreatic cancer.

Researchers at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine gathered data from 107 countries, and found that those with the least amount of sunlight also had the highest rates of pancreatic cancer. Even after they took into consideration other factors that may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer like alcohol consumption, obesity and smoking, the strong correlation between cloud-cover and incidence of pancreatic cancer persisted.

Vitamin D is an essential, fat soluble vitamin that is found in certain foods and occurs naturally in the body when it is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D’s function is to help us use calcium, which is an essential element of good bone health. It also helps us to balance the equilibrium between calcium and phosphorus, which is a very important element for healthy cell function. Now, through this study, we also know that a lack of vitamin D is yet another possible factor to add to the etiology of pancreatic cancer.

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*credit verbatim via and Dr. Manny Alvarez*