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Newly discovered epidermal growth factor receptor active in human pancreatic cancers
Date:4/18/2009

Finally some promising news about pancreatic cancer, one of the most fatal cancers, due to the difficulties of early detection and the lack of effective therapies: Johns Hopkins University pathologist Akhilesh Pandey has identified an epidermal growth factor receptor aberrantly active in approximately a third of the 250 human pancreatic cancers studied.

In a presentation April 18, at Experimental Biology 2009 in New Orleans, Dr. Pandey explained why this finding and related work in his Hopkins laboratory is promising in terms of both a new treatment for a large subset of pancreatic cancers and a potential blood or urine screening tool that might eventually do for pancreatic cancer detection what biomarkers like prostate-specific antigen levels have done for prostate cancer. His presentation was part of the scientific program of the American Society for Investigative Pathology.

Personalized treatment. Phosophorylated epidermal growth factor receptor (pEGFR), the receptor identified by Dr. Pandey, is closely related to HER-2, a growth factor receptor found and used as a drug target in a subset of breast cancers. After he found and profiled the pEGFR activated in the pancreatic cancers, Dr. Pandey realized the same receptor had been found by other researchers to be activated in a subset of lung cancers. And, most promising, an EGFR inhibitor named erlotinib already has been through the long and complex Food and Drug Administration approval process and is in use for treatment of these specific lung cancers.

But would the drug work in pancreatic cancers? Dr. Pandey's group moved from studies of human cell lines to studies in mice in which human pancreatic tumor cells with activated EGFT had been placed. The tumors began growing. But when treated with erlotinib, they began to shrink. Other tumors without activated pECFR showed no response.

The promise and the challenge of using pEGFR is that of personalized medicine, says Dr.
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Contact: Sylvia Wrobel
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770-722-0155
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Source:Eurekalert

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