Discovery of a New Protein Responsible for Pancreatic Cancer

Discovery of a New Protein Responsible for Pancreatic Cancer

A new study concluded that the pancreatic cells rely on a single protein which acts a key mediator to help malignant pancreatic cells grown and spread. This research will soon lead to a new class of drugs that will focus on preventing and treating this protein.

Generally said, treating pancreatic cancer is a difficult task. The death rate due to pancreatic cancer is very high, meaning about 61% of the population with early-stage pancreatic cancer is unable to liver further than 5 years.

There are various types of pancreatic cancer, each with different levels of aggressiveness. The patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma suffer the most. Data suggests that people with this type of pancreatic cancer have less than 10% of surviving chance after 5 years of being diagnosed with advanced stage.

Now, this new research has identified the main vulnerable point of this aggressive cancer. It has also been found that the pancreatic cells are found to be ‘addicted’ to this type of protein.

A professor at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, along with his team, have successfully investigated why this subtype of pancreatic cancer is so aggressive.

Up till now, the professor and his team knew that a certain type of mutation leads to the progression of this diseases, but they didn’t know which thing triggered the mutation in the first place.

They found out that the gene encoding that certain type of protein was overexpressed in this subtype of cancer, especially when the aggressive form of this cancer is present.

This study was published in the journal Cell Reports and Timothy Somerville, a postdoctoral fellow is found to be the lead author of this research.

What Drives Tumor Growth?

The author explains that a patient with pancreatic cancer will go on to live for about 2 years on average. However, those diagnosed with the subtype pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma will face serious consequences, including death, within a year.

As this version of cancer is deadly, they had to dig in to find the mutation responsible. To find out which protein it was, the investigators had to use existing transcriptome analyses of tumors. They had to analyze which transcription factor played as a master regulator.

In layman terms, transcription factors are the key proteins that help to decode the information hidden in our genes. As the information is recognized as a team of RNA molecules and various other proteins work together to express that gene.

The study found that there were certain domains which bound to the promoter or enhancer side of the specific genes in the DNA, leading to overexpression of a protein.

This overexpression of the gene- through the mutated transcription factor- would then work on a cellular level to change the normal squamous epithelium of the pancreatic cells to abnormal type.

Suppressing P63 as a new treatment

The study proved that a specific gene known as Tumor-protein 63 (TP63) is overly expressed in this type of aggressive cancer. Previous studies had never mentioned the role of TP63 in pancreatic cancer, but now this research has proven otherwise.

P63 is that addictive protein, which the cancer cells reply so much on. As this protein start to express itself, the pancreatic cells become so much obsessed with it that they won’t grow without it.

Somerville says that if new medications were able to stop this protein from overexpressing, it would be really good for people who suffer from this aggressive cancer.

The next goal of these researchers is to find out why this p63 gene gets mutated in the first place. If they are able to find out this, they could increase the survival rate of many vulnerable people.


Nancy Walker

Nancy holds a Medicine degree and a Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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