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Molecular marker could help spot pancreatic cancer early
Date:4/26/2010

CHAPEL HILL Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have identified a molecular marker of pancreatic cancer that may help spot the disease at its earliest stages, when it can be treated more successfully with surgery.

In a finding published April 26, 2010, in the online journal PLoS One, the researchers showed that a specific form of a protein called palladin is produced in large amounts in the "tumor nest," the cells that surround a pancreatic tumor.

By measuring the levels of this form of palladin in patient samples, doctors could have an improved way to screen for the deadly cancer, possibly catching it earlier than ever before, said senior study author Carol Otey, Ph.D., associate professor of cell and molecular physiology at UNC.

Otey is a member of the NC Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TRaCS), part of a collaborative effort of a national network of medical research institutions affiliated with the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs).

"The problem with pancreas cancer is it is almost never caught at an early stage," said Otey. "By the time a person develops suspicious symptoms, the disease has typically progressed too far. But if you can diagnose it early, it can be treated very effectively with surgery."

Palladin, a protein which Otey discovered a decade ago, plays an important role in cell motility, adhesion and structure. More recently, Otey and her collaborator Teri Brentnall at the University of Washington showed that palladin was mutated in an inherited form of pancreas cancer and was also produced in large amounts -- "upregulated" -- in a number of sporadic pancreas tumors.

Otey and her colleagues decided to see if this upregulation of palladin could provide a useful diagnostic tool for identifying the disease at earlier stages. They knew that the single palladin gene message can actually be cut and pas
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Contact: Les Lang
llang@unch.unc.edu
919-966-9366
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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