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Jefferson scientists find protein helps pancreatic cancer cells evade immune system and spread
Date:1/10/2008

(PHILADELPHIA) A protein that helps prevent a womans body from rejecting a fetus may also play an important role in enabling pancreatic cancer cells to evade detection by the immune system, allowing them to spread in the body.

Researchers at Jeffersons Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia found that the metastatic cancer cells in the lymph nodes of patients with pancreatic cancer produce enough of the protein, IDO, to essentially wall-off the immune systems T-cells and recruit cells that suppress the immune systems response to the tumor. The findings might mean not only a better way to detect pancreatic cancer spreading to lymph nodes, but also could enhance tumor immune therapy strategies against the fast-moving, deadly disease.

According to Jonathan Brody, Ph.D., assistant professor of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, one way that metastatic cancer cells can survive in nearby lymph nodes is by avoiding the immune system. Evidence from studies by scientists looking at other cancers has indicated that IDO (indolamine 23 dioxygenase) is critical to regulating the immune environment. The Jefferson scientists wanted to know if metastatic pancreatic cancer cells residing in the lymph nodes expressed IDO to avoid being found, and if so, could they target this enzyme with available drugs to prevent the cancer cells from hiding from the immune system.

Dr. Brody, Charles Yeo, M.D., Samuel D. Gross Professor and chair of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College and their co-workers analyzed IDO expression in 14 lymph nodes to which pancreatic cancer cells had spread and compared them to the primary tumors that had not spread in the same patients. In every case, they found greater expression of the IDO protein in the cancerous lymph nodes. They also looked at three cases of lymph node-negative pancreatic cancers, finding little IDO present.

Scientists know that IDO shuts off tryptophan producti
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Contact: Steve Benowitz
steven.benowitz@jefferson.edu
215-955-5291
Thomas Jefferson University
Source:Eurekalert

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