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Building a better mouse model to understand pancreatic cancer
Date:2/25/2014

(SALT LAKE CITY)Cancer of the pancreas is usually not detected until it's too late to cure. But precursor lesions that form in the pancreas and its ducts can signal the disease before it strikes, and when caught early enough, they can be prevented from progressing to become cancer.

In a new study, researchers led by a molecular biologist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), report two breakthroughs in understanding those lesions and their role in pancreatic cancer: the development of the first mouse model that simulates a precursor lesion called intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasia (IPMN), and the identification of an enzyme, Brg1, that appears to help cause the formation of IPMN lesions while also suppressing another precursor lesion.

A University of Utah co-author on the study says the research proves that epigenetics changes in genetic activity caused by forces other than modifications in the DNA sequence, such as when genes are turned on or off play a role in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), the most common type of cancer of the pancreas. "These findings may provide an avenue for intervention in PDA, if we can understand the epigenetics," says Matthew A. Firpo, Ph.D., research associate professor of surgery.

Mathias Hebrok, Ph.D., of UCSF School of Medicine, led the study published on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, in Nature Cell Biology. Sean J. Mulvihill, M.D., University of Utah professor of surgery, associate vice president for clinical affairs and CEO of the University of Utah Medical Group, is also a co-author on the paper. He and Firpo have banked human samples of IPMN for many years and shared some with Hebrok for his research.

"This study not only represents a longstanding collaboration between the University of Utah and UCSF but also is a reflection of the transition in research from single investigators working on their own to highly collaborative studies with experts in many f
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Contact: Phil Sahm
phil.sahm@hsc.utah.edu
801-581-2517
University of Utah Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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