01 Jul New Therapeutic Target May Make Chemotherapy More Effective Against Pancreatic Cancer
Medical Research: What is the background for this study?
Dr. Kota: Pancreatic cancer tumors are surrounded by a thick fibrotic shell known as “stroma” which protects the cancer cells from anticancer drugs such as chemotherapy. However, complete depletion of tumor stroma leads to more aggressive disease and decreases survival. The stromal abundance needs to be appropriately moderated (i.e. not too much nor too little) in pancreatic tumors. None of the current anti-stromal therapies have been effective enough to resolve this problem. Unless we understand the molecular signatures associated with tumor stroma, it will be challenging to develop an effective therapeutic strategy.
There is a desperate need to develop new therapies for pancreatic cancer as only 7 percent of people with the disease survive more than 5 years after diagnosis. According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be an estimated 48,960 new cases of pancreatic cancer and 40,560 deaths from the disease in 2015.
Medical Research: What are the main findings?
Dr. Kota: We found that the loss of microRNA-29 (miR-29) is a common phenomenon of pancreatic cancer stromal cells, and that by restoring it, the viability and growth of the cancerous cells and stromal accumulation was reduced. The use of miR-29 as a therapeutic agent may be more effective in targeting reactive stroma, as a single miRNA regulates the expression of several genes associated with disease mechanisms. We expect that this novel approach has the potential to overcome the problems associated with current anti-stromal drugs and could lead to improved therapeutic strategies, enhanced drug delivery to the tumor bed, and, in the future, improved patient survival.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Kota: To take these basic research findings into the clinic, anti-cancer properties of miR-29 need to be evaluated in preclinical animal models, and the precise molecular mechanisms associated with the effect of miR-29 overexpression in stromal cells on cancer cells need to be elucidated.
Dr. Janaiah Kota, & Assistant Professor, Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics (2015). New Therapeutic Target May Make Chemotherapy More Effective Against Pancreatic Cancer