STANFORD, Calif. Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have identified a protein critical for the growth of pancreatic cancer. Blocking the expression of the protein slowed or prevented tumor growth in mice and made cultured cancer cells vulnerable to the conditions of low oxygen that occur in solid tumors.
"This research clearly shows that inhibiting the protein inhibits the tumor's ability to grow," said cancer biologist Amato Giaccia, PhD. "Ultimately, we'd like to be able to specifically knock out the expression of this protein in pancreatic tumors in humans."
Pancreatic cancer is a highly aggressive and deadly disease that accounts for more than 30,000 deaths in the United States annually, and current therapies are largely ineffective.
"Right now, we have very little to offer these patients," said Giaccia. He is the Jack, Lulu and Sam Willson Professor and professor of radiation oncology and the senior author of the research, which will be published Feb. 1 in the journal Cancer Research. Giaccia is also a member of the Stanford Cancer Center.
The researchers studied a protein called connective tissue growth factor, or CTGF. Also known as CCN2, the protein is involved in the abnormal growth of connective tissue in response to injury or disease. It was also thought to be involved in pancreatic tumor progression, although the exact role it played was unknown.
Giaccia and his collaborators found that human pancreatic cancer cells expressing high levels of CCN2 grew robustly when injected under the skin of mice. In fact, in the developing tumor these cells soon out-competed others that expressed lower levels of the protein. Conversely, pancreatic cancer cells in which CCN2 expression was suppressed were either less likely or unable to form tumors when injected into mice.
The researchers observed similar effects when the cancer cells were injected directly into the animals' pancre
|Contact: Krista Conger|
Stanford University Medical Center