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Supportive tissue in tumors hinders, rather than helps, pancreatic cancer
Date:5/22/2014

HOUSTON Fibrous tissue long suspected of making pancreatic cancer worse actually supports an immune attack that slows tumor progression but cannot overcome it, scientists at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center report in the journal Cancer Cell.

"This supportive tissue that's abundant in pancreatic cancer tumors is not a traitor as we thought but rather an ally that is fighting to the end. It's a losing battle with cancer cells, but progression is much faster without their constant resistance," said study senior author Raghu Kalluri, Ph.D., M.D., chair of Cancer Biology. "It's like having a car with weak yet functioning brakes vs. having one with no brakes."

The team's findings point to a potential new avenue for guiding treatment, including immunotherapy, and offer an explanation for the failure of a promising combination drug approach in clinical trials.

"Cancer is one form of tissue injury. When our defense system detects damaged cells it sends soldiers to contain and repair the damage," Kalluri said. "When it cannot remove the damaged cells and repair the injured area, our defensive fibrotic response tries to put a boundary around it, to contain it and prevent it from spreading."

Pancreatic cancer is resistant to treatment and only about 7 percent of patients survive for five years. An estimated 46,420 new U.S. cases will be diagnosed in 2014 and 39,590 people will die of the disease.

Study results consistent with failed clinical trial

Kalluri and colleagues used genetically engineered mouse models that allowed depletion of tissue-repair cells called myofibroblasts in pancreatic cancer. Myofibroblasts compose a major portion of supportive tissue called stroma and also produce collagen, which serves as a scaffold for wound-healing and tissue regeneration. Up to 90 percent of a pancreatic tumor can consist of fibrotic support tissue.

When the scientists depleted myofibro
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Contact: Scott Merville
smerville@mdanderson.org
713-792-0661
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert

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