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UK study finds new way to potentially halt pancreatic cancer spread

24 May 2014

UK based researchers have shown how switching off a key protein in pancreatic cells slows the spread of the disease to other tissues.

The study, published in this month's issue of Gastroenterology, provides some of the first insights into how elevated levels of the protein called fascin help cancer cells penetrate the tightly packed cells lining the abdomen.

Lead researcher  Dr Laura Machesky, from Cancer Research UK's Beatson Institute in Glasgow, said: "We know fascin is overactive in many cancers, but this is the first time we've been able to show that tumours lacking this protein are less able to develop and spread. What's more, we found that pancreatic cancer patients with elevated fascin levels were more prone to the cancer coming back and tended to succumb to the disease more quickly.

"It's early days, but we think that developing drugs to block fascin could potentially help halt cancer spread in patients with pancreatic cancer, and other cancers with higher levels of this protein."

The researchers studied human cancer samples and mice predisposed to develop pancreatic cancer. They found that when fascin was absent, pancreatic cancer was less able to spread around the body. In mice, this delayed the onset of the disease and resulted in smaller tumours.

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