Not All Pancreatic Cancers are the Same: Some Have Treatable Mutations

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Michael J. Pishvaian, MD, PhD Phase I Program Director Assistant Professor Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center Washington, DC 20007

Dr. Pishvaian

Michael J. Pishvaian, MD, PhD
Phase I Program Director
Assistant Professor
Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
Washington, DC 20007

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

 Response: Pancreatic cancer is a deadly disease and will soon be the second leading cause of cancer-related death.

We have made some progress in the last few years….but despite this, patients with advanced, inoperable pancreatic cancer (which represents about 80% of pancreatic cancer patients) still only live 12 months, on average. We desperately need new therapies, AND to think “outside the box” for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

In that context, we have been learning that there are subgroups of patients with cancer whose tumors are particularly susceptible to certain therapies – either new therapies, or in some cases, approved therapies that would have not normally been used for that disease.  These specific patient subgroups with “actionable” findings have been identified through extensive genetic and molecular characterization of a patient’s tumor.

In the past there was a cynical perspective that pancreatic cancer did not harbor any “actionable” molecular abnormalities.

We have now demonstrated that:

1) There are clearly and undeniably patients with pancreatic cancer whose tumors do indeed harbor “actionable” findings.  This represents at least 27% of pancreatic cancer patients, but may represent up to 50% as new therapies evolve.  These percentages are also highly consistent with similar publications in the pancreatic cancer field over the last few years; and

2) Importantly, we have been following our patients longitudinally for outcomes, and while it is still early, there is a statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival when a patient with a specific actionable molecular abnormality is treated with the appropriately “targeted” therapy.  This finding is also consistent with findings that have been observed in other cancer types.   Continue reading

 SM-88 as Potential Alternative to Existing Toxic Treatments for Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Marcus Smith Noel, MD University of Rochester James P. Wilmot Cancer Institute Strong Memorial Hospital

Dr. Smith Noel

Dr. Marcus Smith Noel, MD
University of Rochester James P. Wilmot Cancer Institute
Strong Memorial Hospital

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Pancreatic cancer outcomes are poor even despite improvement in the overall prognosis for many cancers. Early detection of pancreatic cancer is uncommon because early stage pancreatic cancer often has few symptoms. Unfortunately, most cases are diagnosed at more advanced stages, which is in part why the disease is so lethal. Current standard of care treatments are highly toxic and not effective long-term, as about 90% of patients diagnosed with advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer do not survive a year.

SM-88 is a relatively non-toxic novel combination therapy designed to utilize cellular metabolism and oxidative stress to drive cancer cell death. This therapy has previously demonstrated activity in various metastatic cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, and is currently being evaluated in an ongoing Phase II trial for metastatic pancreatic cancer.

This study is a trial in progress report of Tyme’s Phase II trial in patients with metastatic cancer. The Phase II trial is designed as an open-label, multi-center study of SM-88 in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who have failed at least one prior line of therapy. In the first stage of the trial, 36 patients will be randomized 1:1 to receive a dose of either a currently utilized active regimen or a double dose per day of SM-88. Primary endpoints are overall response rate (ORR) and overall survival (OS). Secondary endpoints include progression-free survival (PFS), disease control rate, duration of response and time to subsequent treatment. The purpose of the first stage of the study is to analyze the safety, efficacy and pharmacokinetics of SM-88 in patients.  The selected dose of SM-88 will be continued into the second stage of the trial for approximately 81 additional patients.

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Blood Pressure Med Linked to Increased Risk of Pancreatic Cancer in Postmenopausal Women

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Zhensheng Wang, M.P.H., Ph.D. Postdoctoral Associate Duncan Cancer Center-Bondy Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX, US

Dr. Wang

Zhensheng Wang, M.P.H., Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Associate
Duncan Cancer Center-Bondy
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, TX

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Our prior research consistently found a significant inverse association between circulating levels of soluble receptor for advanced glycation end products (sRAGE), an anti-inflammatory factor, and risk of pancreatic cancer. It has also been found that sRAGE levels or RAGE signaling are modulated by anti-hypertensive (anti-HT) medications, including angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors (ACEi), β-blockers, and calcium channel blockers (CCBs). These medications have been shown in prior pre-clinical or experimental research to either increase sRAGE concentrations, decrease formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), or dampen pro-inflammatory receptor for AGE (RAGE) signaling pathway. We therefore hypothesized that there would be an inverse association between use of anti-HT medications and risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is a major public health concern in the United States, as it is the 4th leading cause of cancer-related mortality with an estimated of 43,090 deaths in 2017. Pancreatic cancer typically occurs in elderly individuals who also have chronic comorbid medical conditions, such as hypertension. Anti-HT medication use in individuals ≥ 18 years old has increased from 63.5% in 2001-2002 to 77.3% in 2009-2010, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the U.S. Therefore, it is of great public health significance to address the potential association between anti-HT medication use and risk of pancreatic cancer in the general population.

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Gut and Pancreatic Microbiome Drive Pancreatic Cancer

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Mautin Hundeyin MD Post-doctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Hundeyin

Mautin Hundeyin MD
Post-doctoral Research Fellow

George Miller, MD is Principal Investigator and Director of the S. Arthur Localio Laboratory in the Department of Surgery at NYU School of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is the devastating disease with grim prognosis. The microbiome has emerged as a contributor to oncogenesis in a number of intestinal tract malignancies. We found that PDA is associated with a distinct stage-specific gut and pancreatic microbiome that drives disease progression by inducing intra-tumoral immune suppression. Targeting the microbiome protects against oncogenesis, reverses intra-tumoral immune-tolerance, and enables efficacy for check-point based immunotherapy. These data have implications for understanding immune-suppression in pancreatic cancer and its reversal in the clinic.  Continue reading

Lutathera® Approved for Neuroendocrine Tumors of the Pancreas (Steve Job’s Cancer)

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr- Lynn Matrisian

Dr. Matrisian

Lynn Matrisian, PhD, MBA
Chief science Officer
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

MedicalResearch.com: Would you tell us a little about PNETs? How common is this type of pancreatic tumor? How does Lutathera differ from other treatments for this tumor? 

Response: Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) make up about 6 percent of all pancreatic cancer diagnoses. They are less common and slower growing than the more common type of pancreatic cancer, adenocarcinoma, and have a better prognosis.

Lutathera® is a peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) that was approved for the treatment of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs), including PNETs, that express somatostatin receptors. The drug is a somatostatin analog that is conjugated to a radionuclide (177Lu) to selectively deliver radiotherapy to the cancer cells.

Other treatment options for PNETs include surgery (partial or complete removal of the tumor), chemotherapy (typically in combination) or radiation therapy (conventional as well as PRRT). Patients may also receive targeted therapies. Sutent® blocks platelet-derived growth factor receptors (PDGFRs) α and β, stem-cell factor receptor (c-kit) and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR)-2 and VEGFR-3, leading to inhibition of cell growth and angiogenesis. Afinitor® behaves as a rapamycin analog, blocking the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway.

Prior to Lutathera’s approval, there were two non-PRRT somatostatin analogs approved for PNET patients. These drugs were initially intended to mitigate some of the symptoms of the disease, but they were also found to slow the cancer cells’ growth. The approved somatostatin analogs are lanreotide and octreotide.  Continue reading

DNA Analysis Identifies Subtype of Pancreatic Cancer With Good Prognosis

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Nancy You, MD, MHSc, FACS Department of Surgical Oncology The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Houston

Dr. You

Nancy You, MD, MHSc, FACS
Department of Surgical Oncology
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: This study was motivated by the emerging promise of precision medicine and the emerging evidence that immunotherapy may have phenomenal efficacy in particular molecular subtypes of cancers.  This specific molecular subtype shows deficiency in DNA mismatch repair mechanisms and therefore is thought to be more immunogenic.  DNA mismatch repair deficiency can arise from germline defects such as in the case of patients with Lynch Syndrome, an inherited cancer syndrome, or from epigenetic inactivation DNA mismatch repair genes.

Overall, pancreas cancer has seen limited success with conventional chemotherapy.  In our study, we demonstrated that there is a particular molecular subtype of pancreas cancer that is characterized by defect in DNA mismatch repair genes and by microsatelie instability that has a different prognosis than other pancreas cancers.  This subtype of pancreas cancer is suspected to also respond to immunotherapy.

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Comprehensive Study of Metabolic Inhibitors Reveals the Anti-Tumor Efficacy of Phenformin in Pancreatic Cancer

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr-Rajesh-Kumar.jpg

Dr. Rajesh Kumar NV

Rajesh Kumar NV, Ph.D.
Instructor of Oncology and Pathology,
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
Current affiliation
Senior Manager, Human Therapeutics Division,
Intrexon Corporation
Germantown, MD

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (a.k.a. pancreatic cancer) is one of the most deadly of all types of cancer and currently the third leading cause of cancer-related death in United States. Current therapeutic options for pancreatic cancer involve combination cytotoxic chemotherapy, which yield only minimal survival benefit. A multitude of Phase III clinical trials have failed to demonstrate efficacy, largely due to the aggressive growth of pancreatic tumors. Metabolic reprogramming is a hallmark of cancer cells, including pancreatic cancer. Altered metabolism is central to the pathogenesis of pancreatic cancer and contributes to promotion of proliferation, survival, invasiveness and chemo-resistance of cancer cells. Pharmacologic strategies targeting cancer metabolism might therefore represent a promising approach towards the development of effective drugs against pancreatic cancer.

We utilized a clinically relevant and genetically characterized platform of patient-derived pancreatic cancer xenografts, which we originally created from the freshly resected pancreatic cancer tissues of patients, to explore the in vivo anti-tumor efficacy of a panel metabolic inhibitors and investigated whether mutational status, gene expression and metabolite profile of tumors correlate with the sensitivity to metabolic inhibitors. To our knowledge, this is the largest preclinical trial which enrolled a large number of animals (over 500 mice) with established human pancreatic tumors for the comprehensive evaluation of key metabolic inhibitors in pancreatic cancer.  Continue reading

Distinct Mutational Signatures Correlate With Increased Immune Activity in Pancreatic Cancer

MedicalResearch.com Interview with
Dr. Ashton A. Connor, MD
PanCuRx Translational Research Initiative,
Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
Dr. Steven Gallinger MD, MSC
Division of General Surgery
Toronto General Hospital
Toronto, ON

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The etiology of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (i.e. “pancreatic cancer”) and the relationship between the tumour and its characteristic dense, encroaching stroma are still poorly understood.

Using whole genome sequencing in two large cohorts, we show that there are four fundamental mutational processes that give rise to pancreatic cancer.
With expression data, we also show that the interaction between the tumour and the surrounding stroma varies with the type of mutational process found in the tumour. Specifically, tumours with defective DNA repair, either homologous recombination or mismatch repair deficiency, elicited strong anti-tumour immune responses, likely due to the relatively high numbers of neoantigens in these tumours.

Individually, these concepts have been studied in other cancer types, but we are first to apply either of these to pancreatic cancer, and we also the first to integrate these two aspects of cancer biology for any tumour, to our knowledge.

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DRD2 Inhibitors As Potential Therapy Against Pancreatic Cancer

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Pouria Jandaghi
Functional Genome Analysis, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Heidelberg, Germany
Department of Human Genetics, McGill University
University and Genome Quebec Innovation Centre
Montreal, Canada

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Although the overall five-year survival of all patients with cancer stands at 63%, for pancreatic cancer patients, it is a disheartening 8% – a number that remains largely unchanged for three decades. Of the patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, about 85% exhibit pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Most of these patients die within 4 to 6 months after diagnosis. The poor prognosis is caused by the its detection at only late stages, and lack of effective options for chemotherapy. The widely used chemotherapeutic agent gemcitabine, confers a median survival advantage of only 6 months, and resistance to therapy develops in the vast majority of patients. Given this poor prognosis of patients with PDAC, there is an urgent need to find more effective therapies.

In this study, we set out to investigate potential therapeutic targets by dissecting gene expression profiles of tumors and control samples. Candidate targets were validated with respect to their suitability and analyzed functionally.
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New Onset Diabetes, Especially In Lean Patients, Can Be Marker of Pancreatic Cancer

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Pavel Škrha
Charles University, Prague
Czech Republic

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Incidence of pancreatic cancer (PAC) is still increasing. The main problem is in the late diagnosis of the cancer. It was found, that diabetes mellitus was much more frequent in the pancreatic cancer patients than in the general population. DM can be already the first symptom of the disease (secondry T3cDM).

In our study nearly 80 % of all the pancreatic cancer patients had DM/prediabetes and it was of new-onset (less than 2 years before the cancer diagnosis) in 73 % out of them. We have measured the current marker of PAC (CA 19-9) together with serum microRNA-196 and -200 (that we have chosen in the previous pilot study). All the markers were significantly elevated in the pancreatic cancer patients, without any difference between the subgroups according to DM presence/absence. While the sensitivity of CA 19-9 alone (to detect the cancer) was 85 % (specificity 73 %), combining all the three markers improved it to 95 % (specificity 77 %). In the pancreatic cancer group, there were only six patients with T1 or T2 stage (others had an advanced stage of the disease – T3, T4). While CA 19-9 alone identified only 2 patients of them, the combined test identified all the six patients (data not shown in the poster). Continue reading

Vitamin A May Inhibit Pancreatic Cancer by Preventing Desmoplasia That Surrounds Tumor

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Armando E. del Río Hernández, PhD European Research Council Fellow Head, Cellular and Molecular Biomechanics Laboratory http://biomechanicalregulation-lab.org/ Senior Lecturer, Department of Bioengineering Imperial College London

Dr. del Río Hernández

Armando E. del Río Hernández, PhD
European Research Council Fellow
Head, Cellular and Molecular Biomechanics Laboratory
http://biomechanicalregulation-lab.org/
Senior Lecturer, Department of Bioengineering
Imperial College London

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Pancreatic cancer is an extremely aggressive disease with an unacceptably low survival rate that has not changed during the last 40 years despite significant efforts aimed at developing therapies against cancer cells.

Pancreatic cancer is characterised by an extensive desmoplasia, which forms the majority of the tissue around the tumour. This desmoplastic tissue is known to help the tumour to grow and metastasize, and hinders drug delivery.

We have focused our efforts on understanding how pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs), which are the key effectors that orchestrate the desmoplastic reaction in pancreatic cancer, can promote tumour progression. PSCs in healthy pancreas have abundant vitamin A storage in their cytoplasm and exist in a quiescent state that guarantees a balanced tissue homeostasis. In pancreatic cancer, loss of this balance activates PSCs, which lose the vitamin A content and remodel the surrounding tissue to make it favourable for cancer cell invasion.
We found that treating PSCs which ATRA (All trans-retinoic acid), the active metabolite of vitamin A mechanically reprograms PSCs to promote quiescence in vitro. Quiescent PSCs are unable to remodel the microenvironment to allow pancreatic cancer cell invasion.

To get more information about our findings please find the article in the open access journal Nature Communications:http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms12630

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Pancreatic Cancer Study Finds Abraxane Superior to Paclitaxel

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Rajesh Kumar NV, Ph.D. Instructor of Oncology and Pathology Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore, MD, USA Current Affiliation: Senior Manager, Human Therapeutics Division, Intrexon Corporation, 20358 Seneca Meadows Parkway, Germantown, MD, USA

Dr. Rajesh Kumar NV

Rajesh Kumar NV, Ph.D.
Instructor of Oncology and Pathology
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, MD, USA
Current Affiliation: Senior Manager, Human Therapeutics Division, Intrexon Corporation, 20358 Seneca Meadows Parkway, Germantown, MD, USA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Pancreatic cancer remains as one of the most deadly malignancies in the world. Recently, a cremophor-free and albumin-bound formulation of paclitaxel (nab-PTX, Abraxane) in combination with gemcitabine (GEM, Gemzar) is recently approved as a standard of care treatment option for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer. Majority of the newly diagnosed pancreatic cancer patients use the nab-PTX plus GEM regimen. Currently there are over 100 clinical trials at various stages with this regimen as a backbone to approved medicines or investigational agents. Since widely available cremophor-based paclitaxel (PTX, Taxol) is a key chemotherapy component for the treatment of several human malignancies and the treatment cost of nab-PTX is relatively higher than PTX, patients, clinicians, third party payers and regulatory agencies have a substantial interest in understanding whether these two drugs provide a similar level of therapeutic efficacy in pancreatic cancer.

We utilized orthotopic models of human pancreatic cancer, which were shown to better recapitulate the histologic and metastatic characteristics of disease, and compared the anticancer efficacy, effect on tumor stroma modulation, metastatic spreading to distant organs and survival following GEM, PTX, nab-PTX and combinations of GEM plus PTX or nab-PTX. The preclinical trial used a total of 300 mice with established orthotopic pancreatic tumors. The tumors used for implantation were originally resected from the primary tumors of patients with moderately differentiated and poorly differentiated pancreatic cancer.

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New Survival Prediction Model for Locally Advanced Pancreatic Cancer

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr-Dewi-VernereyDewi Vernerey PhD
Epidemiologist / Statistician
Methodology and quality of Life in oncology unit
University Hospital of Besançon

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The management of locally advanced pancreatic cancer (LAPC) patients is still controversial. Better discrimination for the prediction of overall survival (OS) at diagnosis is needed. Currently, there is a lack of a staging system and an absence of a consensus regarding patient-specific risk profile for OS that can lead to confusion about the development of research strategy and to potentially inappropriate management of patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer.

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Study Identifies Pathway Linking Obesity With Pancreatic Cancer Progression

Rakesh K. Jain, Ph.D. A.W.Cook Professor of Radiation Oncology (Tumor Biology) Director, E.L. Steele Laboratory Department of Radiation Oncology Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital Boston, MA 02114

Dr. Rakesh Jain

MedicalResearch.com Interview with;
Dr. Rakesh K. Jain, PhD
A.W.Cook Professor of Radiation Oncology (Tumor Biology)
Director, E.L. Steele Laboratory
Department of Radiation Oncology
Harvard Medical School and
Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, MA 02114

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the fourth leading cause of cancer death worldwide, and more than half of patients diagnosed with PDAC are overweight or obese. Among patients with PDAC, obesity more than doubles the already high risk of death, and our work aims to reveal the underlying mechanisms. Specifically, we identified that obesity increases desmoplasia – an accumulation of connective tissue and inflammation – hallmark of Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and discovered underlying mechanisms.

In our report published online in Cancer Discovery, we describe how interactions among fat cells, immune cells and connective tissue cells in obese individuals create a microenvironment that promotes tumor progression while diminishing the response to chemotherapy. We demonstrated the negative impact of obesity on numerous aspects of tumor growth, progression and treatment response in several animal models of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and confirmed some of our findings in samples from cancer patients. Along with finding that tumors from obese mice or patients exhibited elevated levels of adipocytes or fat cells and of desmoplasia, both of which fuel tumor progression and interfere with treatment response, we identified the underlying causes.

The elevated desmoplasia in obese mouse models of PDAC was caused by the activation of pancreatic stellate cells through the angiotensin II type-1 receptor (AT1) signaling pathway. This activation was induced by interleukin-1 beta (IL-1ß) produced by fat cells as well as the immune cells called neutrophils within tumors. Inhibiting AT1 signaling with losartan, which is used clinically to treat hypertension, or the blockade of IL-1ß reduced obesity-associated desmoplasia and tumor growth and increased the response to chemotherapy in the obese mouse model but not in normal weight animals. Analysis of tumors from human PDAC patients revealed increased desmoplasia and fat deposits in samples from obese patients, and data from more than 300 patients showed that excess weight was associated with a reduction in patients.

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Paradoxical Cell Death Mechanism Accelerates Pancreatic Cancer Growth

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. George Miller, MD Vice Chair for research, Department of Surgery Associate Professor, Department of Surgery Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center

Dr. George Miller

Dr. George Miller, MD
Vice Chair for research, Department of Surgery
Associate Professor, Department of Surgery
Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology
NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Miller: Cancer cell death is the goal of most therapeutic programs. Indeed, chemotherapy induces cancer cell death. We show that a novel form of cancer cell death entailing organized necrosis is a prominent way by which cancer cells die. However, paradoxically this form of cell death termed “necroptosis” actually accelerates pancreatic cancer growth in animals by inducing immune suppressive inflammation.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Miller: Novel agents are needed to block necroptosis in pancreatic cancer. This can potentially enhance the immune system’s ability to fight the cancer.

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Study Evaluates Obesity-Related Factors Leading to Pancreatic Cancer Progression

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Joao Incio MD Research Fellow in Radiation Oncology Harvard Medical School/MGH Boston, MA

Dr. Joao Incio

Joao Incio MD
Research Fellow in Radiation Oncology
Harvard Medical School/MGH
Boston, MA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Incio: With  the  current  epidemic  of  obesity,  the  majority  of  pancreatic  cancer  patients  are  overweight  or  obese  at  diagnosis.  Importantly, obesity  worsens treatment  outcomes  in  pancreatic  cancer  patients.  Therefore,  understanding  the  mechanisms  that  underlie  the  poorer  prognosis  of  obese  cancer  patients  is  of  paramount importance.  Obesity  causes  inflammation  and  fibrosis  in  the  normal  pancreas  due  to  the  accumulation  of  dysfunctional  hypertrophic  adipocytes.  Importantly,  desmoplasia  -­  a fibroinflammatory  microenvironment  -­  is  a  hallmark  of  pancreatic  ductal  adenocarcinoma  (PDAC),  and  we  have  shown  that  activation  of  pancreatic  stellate  cells  (PSCs)  via angiotensin-­II  type  1  receptor  (AT1)  pathway  is  a  major  contribution  to  tumor  desmoplasia.  Whether  obesity  affects  desmoplasia  in  PDACs,  and  interferes  with  delivery  and response  of  chemotherapeutics,  was   the focus of our study.

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Breast and Pancreatic Cancer: Pathway Identified That Accelerates Tumors in Obese Patients

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Joao Incio, MD Edwin L. Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology Massachusetts General Hospital | Harvard Medical School | Boston, MA, U.S.A Department of Internal Medicine | Hospital S. Joao | Porto, Portugal

Dr. Joao Incio

Joao Incio, MD
Edwin L. Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology
Massachusetts General Hospital | Harvard Medical School | Boston, MA, U.S.A
Department of Internal Medicine | Hospital S. Joao | Porto, Portugal

 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Incio:  The study focused on the effects of obesity on pancreatic and breast cancer, since more than half of those diagnosed with such tumors are overweight or obese. In addition, a number of large-scale studies have found that obesity leads to an increased risk of death in pancreatic, breast and other types of cancer. But prior to the current study the mechanism of obesity-induced pancreatic and breast cancer progression was unclear. We have uncovered a novel mechanism behind the ability of obesity to promote cancer progression.  We found an association between obesity and an overabundance of a factor called PlGF (placental growth factor) and that PlGF’s binding to its receptor VEGFR-1, which is expressed on immune cells within tumors, promotes tumor progression.

We found that obesity increased infiltration of tumor-promoting immune cells and the growth and metastasis of pancreatic cancers. Blocking VEGFR-1 signaling shifted the immune environment towards prevention of tumor progression in obese but not in lean mice in both pancreatic and breast cancer models. We also found that PlGF was present in excess in obesity and that reduction of PlGF produced similar results to VEGFR-1 inhibition in the tumors of obese mice. We also discovered that targeting the PlGF/VEGFR-1 interaction prevents weight gain in a genetically obese mouse model but worsens a diabetes-like condition, a worsening that was alleviated by use of the common diabetes drug metformin, which also had beneficial anti-tumor effects.

Our findings in cellular and animal models, as well as in patient tumor samples, indicate that targeting the PlGF/ VEGFR-1 pathway may be particularly effective in obese patients.

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Metformin May Inhibit Progression of Pancreatic Cancer In Obese Patients

More on Pancreatic Cancer on MedicalResearch.com

Dai Fukumura, M.D., Ph.D. Edwin L. Steele Laboratory Department of Radiation Oncology Massachusetts General Hospital Harvard Medical School

Dr. Dai Fukumura

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dai Fukumura, M.D., Ph.D.
Joao Incio, M.D.
and Rakesh K. Jain, Ph.D
Edwin L. Steele Laboratory
Department of Radiation Oncology
Massachusetts General Hospital
Harvard Medical School

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Fukumura: This study focused on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most common form of pancreatic cancer, which accounts for almost 40,000 cancer death in the U.S. ever year. Half of those diagnosed with this form of pancreatic cancer are overweight or obese, and up to 80 percent have type 2 diabetes or are insulin resistant. Diabetic patients taking metformin – a commonly used generic medication for type 2 diabetes – are known to have a reduced risk of developing pancreatic cancer; and among patients who develop the tumor, those taking the drug may have a reduced risk of death. But prior to the current study the mechanism of metformin’s action against pancreatic cancer was unclear, and no potential biomarkers of response to metformin had been reported.

We have uncovered a novel mechanism behind the ability of the diabetes drug metformin to inhibit the progression of pancreatic cancer. Metformin decreases the inflammation and fibrosis characteristic of the most common form of pancreatic cancer. We found that metformin alleviates desmoplasia – an accumulation of dense connective tissue and tumor-associated immune cells that is a hallmark of pancreatic cancer – by inhibiting the activation of the pancreatic stellate cells that produce the extracellular matrix and by reprogramming immune cells to reduce inflammation. Our findings in cellular and animal models and in patient tumor samples also indicate that this beneficial effect may be most prevalent in overweight and obese patients, who appear to have tumors with increased fibrosis.

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Pancreatic Cancer May Be Inhibited By Signaling Peptide

Prof. Dr. Véronique Orian-Rousseau Group Leader Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT) Institut für Toxikologie und Genetik (ITG) Campus Nord Karlsruhe Germany

Dr. Orian-Rousseau

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Prof. Dr. Véronique Orian-Rousseau

Group Leader
Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)
Institut für Toxikologie und Genetik (ITG)
Campus Nord
Karlsruhe Germany

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Our group is working on the role of cell adhesion molecules in development and in tumor progression and metastasis. One protein in focus is CD44, a molecule that controls proliferation, differentiation and survival of cells. We have shown that one member of this family, namely CD44v6 acts as a co-receptor for receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) such as MET and VEGFR-2. CD44v6 has a dual function. It controls both the activation and signaling from the RTKs. We have identified a sequence in CD44v6 that is crucial for its function as a co-receptor. From this sequence we made a peptide that inhibits MET and VEGFR2 activation and signaling.

The CD44v6 peptide was used in several independent mouse models of pancreatic cancer including the transgenic PDAC mouse model. It could inhibit the growth of the primary tumor, metastasis and in addition could eliminate already established metastases.

In addition, we could show that MET and CD44v6 expression correlates with poor prognosis and metastasis in a cohort of pancreatic cancer patients.

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Regional, Racial Differences in Surgical Resections for Pancreatic Cancer

Jason S. Gold MD FACS Chief of Surgical Oncology, VA Boston Healthcare System Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Dr.  Jason Gold

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jason S. Gold MD FACS

Chief of Surgical Oncology, VA Boston Healthcare System
Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Gold: Pancreas cancer is a lethal disease. While advances in the best available care for pancreas cancer are desperately needed, improvements can be made in addressing disparities in care. This study aimed to evaluate associations of social and demographic variables with the utilization of surgical resection as well as with survival after surgical resection for early-stage pancreas cancer.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Gold: The main findings are the following:

1:     We found that less than half of patients with early-stage pancreas cancer undergo resection in the United States. Interestingly, the rate of resection has not changed with time during the eight-year study period.

2.  We also found significant disparities associated with the utilization of surgical resection for early-stage pancreas cancer in the United States. African American patients, Hispanic patients, single patients, and uninsured patients were significantly less likely to have their tumors removed. There were regional variations in the utilization of surgical resection as well. Patients in the Southeast were significantly less likely to have a pancreas resection for cancer compared to patients in the Northeast.

3. Among the patients who underwent surgical resection for early-stage pancreas cancer, we did not see significant independent associations with survival for most of the social and demographic variables analyzed. Surprisingly, however, patients from the Southeast had worse long-term survival after pancreas cancer resection compared to those in other regions of the United States even after adjusting for other variables.

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