WASHINGTON: Researchers have discovered a small population of stem cells in pancreatic cancer that appear to drive tumour growth, opening the door for a potential new approach for treating this particularly deadly disease.
Writing in Cancer Research, University of Michigan scientists said finding cancer stem cells in pancreatic tumours could lead to the development of drugs intended to target and kill these cells.
Scientists have toiled with little success to find better ways to treat cancer of the pancreas, which has the lowest survival rate of any major form of cancer.
It kills 97% of people diagnosed with it within five years half within six months of diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer spreads quickly and is rarely is detected at an early stage. In the United States alone, it kills 33,000 people a year.
The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach that secretes a digestive fluid and the hormone insulin.
“The implications of this work are significant,” Diane Simeone, director of the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Centre and lead author of the study, said.
“We’ve made baby steps in improving the survival in these patients over the past decade or so. But we really haven’t had a major breakthrough in coming up with something that has the potential to provide a cure,” she said.
Simeone said there is emerging evidence that within cancers, there is a small subset of cells that are responsible for the growth and propagation of tumours.
The idea is that these cells with stem-cell characteristics the ability to self-renew and differentiate into other cell types are the ones fuelling tumour formation.
Source:The Times Of India