New understanding of a protein that spurs the growth of pancreatic cancer could lead to a new vaccine against the deadly disease, said researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in a report appearing in the current edition of the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.
The protein called mesothelin appears to play an important role in promoting pancreatic cancer growth, said the senior author Dr. Qizhi (Cathy) Yao, professor of surgery vascular surgery at BCM. She, along with co-lead authors Dr. Min Li, assistant professor of surgery, and research associate Dr. Uddalak Bharadwaj carried out the studies of the protein that is found on the tumor cells surface.
Mesothelin is found in other cancers for several years, said Yao, also a researcher in the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center at BCM. However, we didnt know the role it played in pancreatic cancer: until she and her colleagues reported in this article. In fact, they found very high levels of mesothelin in 18 of 21 samples of patients pancreatic tissues compared to amounts found in nearby normal tissues. In studies of this protein in the lab, pancreatic cancer cell lines that produced high levels of mesothelin grew faster and spread more than those in which mesothelin levels were lower.
Pancreatic cancer cells grew and spread faster in mice whose tumors expressed high levels of mesothelin than in those whose cancer did not, said the researchers, who conducted the studies in an immune deficient mouse.
We saw this molecule as very significant in the life of the tumor cells, Yao said. Our next step is to identify whether this would be a good active immunotherapy target.
Making a treatment vaccine of virus-like particles (VLPs) that contained mesothelin, researchers injected mice having pancreatic cancer with this vaccine three times. Virus-like particles have the unique property of inducing protective immune responses but they lack the infectious capacities of
|Contact: Graciela Gutierrez|
Baylor College of Medicine