As per the estimates by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), 55400 cases will emerge in the U.S. in 2018 alone. This makes up for 3.2 percent of the total cancer diagnoses.
Pancreatic cancer tumors are highly resistant to therapy. The 5-year survival rate of such types of cancer is only around 8.5 percent.
However, certain studies are working their ways of finding appropriate drug treatments to deal with it. For example, the researchers from the University of Texas are struggling to find treatments for destroying pancreatic cancer cells.
The study highly suggests that scientists must look for a specific type of scar tissue. This consists of stroma that surrounds the tumor and is in direct interaction with tumors. Identifying it will help find a better therapeutic target.
Dr. Hwang and companions carried out a study regarding pancreatic cancer. They used mouse models for this study. The results concluded that humans can block the growth of cancer cells by targeting a certain protein. The tumor stroma is responsible for producing it.
The results of this study are present in the journal named Science Translational Medicine.
The Protein which Protects Cancer Tumor
The majority part of the tumor stroma of pancreatic cancer cells contains pancreatic stellate cells. Researchers believe that this can actually help protect the cancer tumor. This is because the stroma has a thick consistency. However, it could also be because of the specific properties of the stromal cells.
The current research recognized that the pancreatic stromal cells, particularly the stellate cells produce a certain protein. This protein is Dickkopf protein (DKK3).
This protein is present in extremely high levels in the pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. An adenocarcinoma is a form of pancreatic cancer that the doctors diagnose most commonly.
The activity of protein appears to facilitate the growth of the cancer cells. It also tends to support the metastasis and protect the tumor against the therapy.
In this study on mice, the researchers were able to silence this problematic protein. They introduced a DKK3-blocking antibody that helps prevent it from interacting with other cancer cells. It also stopped the immune cells in the tumor’s environment.
By doing this, the researchers managed to reduce the growth of tumor in the mice. It tended to extend their lives.
Pancreatic cancer usually has a poor prognosis. It is quite unclear if the stromal infiltrate contributes to its total aggressiveness. The scientists demonstrated that DKK3 is present in all major types of pancreatic cancer cells of humans.
The researchers said that DKK3 stimulates the growth of cancer growth and metastasis. It also increases its resistance to immunotherapy and chemotherapy. Targeting this protein in mice cancer can, therefore, boost the immune cell infiltration. It also doubled their survival rates.
Rethinking about Treatment Strategies
Researchers also assessed the DDK3 expression in pancreatic cells of humans. They concluded that two-thirds of the people with this cancer have moderate or high levels of DDK3.
In fact, the levels of DKK3 in the patients of pancreatic cancer are 4.5 times higher than those without cancer.
All of these findings suggest that DKK3 is an extremely therapeutic agent for treating pancreatic cancer. A newly formed anti-DKK3 drug can work on its own. Alternatively, the doctors could administer it as a part of immunotherapy or chemotherapy.
Previous attempts to target the stroma of pancreatic cancer aimed at eliminating stromal elements. However, this study is unique as it adopts a different approach. The study shows that a more effective strategy can inhibit these mechanisms of tumor promotion. This includes DKK3.