Researching the cures


Professor Michael Schmid

Pancreatic cancer often spreads to the liver and can take hold more easily because the immune system does not detect and kill the cancer cells. Professor Schmid has identified a protein that is found at unusually high levels in liver tumours of pancreatic cancer patients. In animal tests, blocking this protein slowed the pace of the tumour’s growth in the liver, so Prof Schmid aims to identify the best way to suppress this protein in pancreatic cancer patients to improve survival

Project title: Defining the molecular mechanisms by which MIF impacts liver metastasis in pancreatic cancer and exploring its therapeutic application

Project aims: Pancreatic cancer often spreads early in the disease development to the liver and research has shown that these secondary tumours need the help of certain immune cells (known as leukocytes) to take hold and grow.

Our immune cells are naturally primed to detect and kill cancer cells, but when a tumour starts to form in the liver, this ability is suppressed, allowing cancer cells to grow and form secondary tumours at distant sites in our bodies.

Professor Schmid will investigate why the immune response fails when pancreatic cancer spreads to the liver. He has already found that disseminated pancreatic cancer cells in the liver produce a protein involved in regulating the immune response and that this protein can’t be found in healthy livers. His team has shown that blocking this protein in the pre-clinical studies greatly reduced the amount of liver tumours.  Thus, Prof Schmid wants to identify the best way to block this protein to reduce the growth of deadly secondary tumours in the liver.