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Pancreatic Cancer May Have a New Foe

Blocking a particular gene could put brakes on killer disease, scientists say

MONDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Proteins produced by a particular gene may provide a new target for treating deadly pancreatic cancer, researchers say.

Experiments at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Minnesota show the "Seven-In-Absentia-Homolog" (SIAH) protein can shut down a key pathway in another gene that, in a mutated form, has been previously linked to excessive growth of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is expected to be diagnosed in nearly 38,000 people in the United States this year, according to the American Cancer Society, and about 34,000 will die of the disease. Even when detected early, the 5-year survival from pancreatic malignancy is about 33 percent.

The findings are scheduled to be presented Sunday at the American Society for Cell Biology annual meeting, in San Francisco.

"By attacking the SIAH-based protein-degrading machinery, we block tumor formation in one of the most aggressive human cancers cells known," Mayo researcher Amy Tang said in a news release issued by the conference organizers.

The mutated gene, K-RAS, normally promotes growth but in its abnormal form is kicks into overdrive opening a major signaling pathway that help increase cell growth people with pancreatic cancer.

In experiments with fruit flies, increased SIAH expression was associated with increased grades and aggressiveness of pancreatic cancer.

Tang said study should follow into whether SIAH inhibition can treat pancreatic cancer in humans.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about pancreatic cancer .

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Society for Cell Biology, news release, Dec. 14, 2008

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