Revealing the roots of pancreatic cancer
Writing in the journal Cancer Cell, scientists in California led by Maike Sander and Matthias Hebrok have uncovered the events at the very beginning of pancreatic cancer. Survival is currently very poor, and often the disease isn't diagnosed until it's too late to treat effectively. It was thought that pancreatic cancer started from lining, or epithelial, cells in the pancreatic ducts growing out of control, but this new research shows that these cells don't start growing in response to faults in genes that are known to be involved in driving pancreatic cancer. Instead, the new data suggest that it might be the acinar cells in the pancreas that lie at the heart of the disease. Inflammation, a known risk factor for pancreatic cancer, helps convert these cells into duct-like pre-cancerous cells in combination with overactivity of a gene called Sox9. The new discovery helps to shed light on the origins of pancreatic cancer, and significantly increases our understanding of how the disease starts and how we might tackle it.