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Unique pancreatic cancer molecule could stop tumours spreading

24 May 2012

New research to track and inhibit a molecule that appears uniquely in pancreatic cancer tumour cells is being presented by PCRF-funded researchers at a prestigious American cancer research conference next month.

Sabari Vallath, a PhD student working with Dr John Marshall at Barts Cancer Institute, will be presenting his work at the American Association for Cancer Research conference, Pancreatic Cancer: Progress and Challenges, on June 18 in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

Sabari’s work focuses on a molecule called αvβ6, which has been shown to be present in pancreatic tumour cells, but not in normal pancreatic cells, or in other normal tissues.

This molecule is already being studied by researchers in the laboratory as a way of tracking the spread of cancer cells through the body, but now Sabari is researching ways to stop the molecule from functioning, so that the cancer cell is unable to replicate itself.

“Results from our preliminary experiments are very promising,” says Sabari. “We have identified antibodies that can stop the activity of αvβ6 and this prevents the pancreatic cancer cells growing and invading. The challenge has been to design an in vivo trial, using mice, that models the real cancer convincingly.”

The trial, due to start in August 2012, will involve four treatment groups: a group treated with gemcitabine, the current preferred drug for pancreatic cancer patients, a group treated with the antibody, a group treated with both gemcitabine and the antibody, and an untreated control group.

“Our hope is that the antibody and the drug combined will provide us with a powerful weapon against this type of cancer,” says Sabari. “A long term goal would be to use this antibody in cancer treatment to stop the cancer from growing and provide a better treatment option for pancreatic cancer patients.”



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