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Embryonic signal drives pancreatic cancer and offers a way to kill it
Date:11/3/2011

implanted into mice as opposed to just cancer cells, the researchers found. Heeschen says that's because those cells were nestled within a supportive "stroma." That protective tissue delivered the Activin signal and prevented the drug combination from reaching the cells.

To get around that, Heeschen and his colleagues added a third ingredient to therapy, an inhibitor intended to target the stroma. The three-pronged approach translated into long-term, progression-free survival for the mice.

Interestingly, Heeschen says the animals' tumors didn't show signs of shrinking even as they were defeated. "They were more or less dead tissue. They were senescent with no cancer stem cells just sitting there," he said.

Those tissues apparently had no ability to form new tumors. The findings suggest that tumor regression isn't always the key thing to look for. It also shows that drugs designed to target cancer stem cells alone are promising, but only in combination with other drugs.

"The concept that you can hit cancer stem cells and tumors will melt away must be abandoned," Heeschen said. "You have to treat the entire cancer - the stroma, cancer stem cells and differentiated cells - as a complex. "

Heeschen says there are hints that this embryonic pathway might have important roles in other forms of cancer, including breast, lung and colorectal cancers. That's something they will now test in further studies.


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Contact: Lisa Lyons
elyons@cell.com
617-386-2121
Cell Press
Source:Eurekalert

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