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New Treatment Eyed for Deadly Pancreatic Cancer
Date:2/26/2010

Drug already approved for arthritis looks promising in lab tests, researchers say

FRIDAY, Feb. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Most pancreatic cancer patients die soon after diagnosis, but researchers have identified an oncogene that appears to be a promising new treatment target.

Even more hopeful is that drugs that target this oncogene are already approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis and are undergoing tests with colon and lung cancers, said lead researcher Nicole Murray, an assistant professor of pharmacology and senior associate consultant in the department of cancer basic science at the Mayo Clinic's Jacksonville, Fla., branch.

"Pancreatic cancer is a highly lethal disease," Murray said. "The current chemotherapeutics that we have available have not been very effective."

For the study, published in the March 1 issue of Cancer Research, Murray's team looked at the role the oncogene PKC-iota (PKCi) plays in pancreatic cancer. This gene has already been implicated in colon and lung cancers.

The researchers have been studying another gene called KRAS, which is mutated in 90 percent of pancreatic cancers and controls PKCi, but KRAS has not been easy to target with drug therapy, Murray noted. This is why they decided to investigate PKCi.

They found high levels of PKCi, which predicted poor survival, in most of the pancreatic cancer tumors sampled. Patients with high PKCi levels survived an average of 492 days, compared with 681 days for patients with low levels of the oncogene.

Five-year survival was 10 percent for those with high PKCi levels, compared with 29.5 percent for patients with low PKCi levels, the researchers noted.

In addition, in experiments in both cells and animals, the researchers found that PKCi was essential for the growth of pancreatic cancer cells.

"When we knocked out the PKCi genes in pancreatic cancer cells, we showed that these cells did not
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