Pancreatic cancer, as the Mayo Clinic reminds us, is one of the deadliest forms of cancer a human being can contract. One reason for the high fatality rates for the disease is that more often than not, it is not caught in its early stages because signs and symptoms are not apparent until surgery is no longer an option. The American Cancer Society notes that even at the earliest stage, five year survival rates are just 14 percent. At stage 5, the survival rate plummets to one percent. A Tuesday article in Gizmag points to a possible new treatment for pancreatic cancer that could change that equation.
Researchers at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, University of California San Diego and Purdue University have developed a technique that uses a protein called E47. The researchers found that E47 can cause pancreatic cancer cells to stop growing and eventually revert into normal pancreas cells. They developed pancreatic cancer cells with increased levels of E47 and found that the protein controlled the DNA responsible for growth and differentiation, thus halting the growth and reverting the cancer cells back to normal. Preliminary mouse studies appear to have confirmed the theory.
The next step will be to extract cancer cells from human patients and determine whether the technique works with human pancreatic cells. When human trials will begin have yet to be determined. However, if the technique works, it could lift the virtual death sentence that a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer usually entails. Even if it is not a cure, the technique could provide years of healthy life to patients.