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Monday, February 16, 2015

Researchers find reason pancreatic cancer resists chemotherapy drug

January 30

Researchers have identified one reason pancreatic cancer is so resistant to chemotherapy treatment: vitamin D.

Only about 5 percent of pancreatic-cancer patients survive beyond five years even with the most aggressive treatment, according to the National Cancer Institute. One big reason is that chemotherapy — including the standard drug, gemcitabine — isn’t very effective at preventing pancreatic cancer cells from replicating.

To understand why, Timothy J. Yen, a professor at Temple University’s Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, removed each of the 24,000 genes, one by one, in pancreatic cancer cells and then doused them with gemcitabine.

When some of these genes were “knocked out,” the gemcitabine was effective. One in particular surprised the researchers.

“When we knocked out the gene for a protein that binds to vitamin D, almost all of (the cancer cells) died,” said Yen, the leader of the research team.

Although vitamin D is important for health, especially for bone health, normal cells do not need vitamin D to survive, said Yen. Apparently, though, pancreatic cancer cells do.

That means if scientists can figure out a way to inactivate the vitamin D receptor in pancreatic cancer cells, the main drug used to treat patients would be more effective.

“My excitement about making vitamin D receptors a priority is because it is a ‘druggable’ target,” Yen said. “There are compounds out there that drug companies already make to affect vitamin D,” so the apparatus and knowledge already exist.

The researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center, which is part of the Temple University Health System, published their findings in the journal Cell Cycle on Jan. 3. Their study took nearly four years to complete, and the initial findings were so unexpected, Yen said, that many more-sophisticated experiments were performed to convince the team that their findings were correct.

“I didn’t believe the results at first,” he said, “because the literature on vitamin D — what does it have to do with cancer? But this wasn’t just a fluke.”

Yen admits that he and his team are novices when it comes to vitamin D, but they did know that it aids functioning in nearly every tissue and organ of the human body, not just the bones. What was so unusual in their genetic experiments was to find that while normal cells do not require vitamin D to survive, pancreatic cancer cells need it to repair the damage caused by chemotherapy.

“This in-vitro study was quite elegant and suggested that targeting VDR (vitamin D receptors) may show synergistic effect with gemcitabine in pancreatic cancer patients,” said Haoqiang Ying, an expert in molecular and cellular oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “Much more detailed studies are needed.”

Many researchers have examined how tumor cells hijack genes, according to Yen.

“Why they hijack certain genes we don’t know,” he said. “But they do re-purpose other genes to help the cancer to survive. In the case of pancreatic cancer, it’s the (gene for the) vitamin D receptor.”

Another reason pancreatic cancer is so stubborn to treat is that the malignancy creates a kind of moat around itself, making it difficult for chemo drugs to reach the primary tumor.

“The possibility is, if we can design something to inhibit vitamin D, we can enhance the sensitivity of the tumor to the limited amount of the drug that gets through,” Yen said. “I would love to see the day my research gets to the bedside, but there are so many things to overcome. This is just another light switch we’ve turned on. We just hope to keep it on as long as we can.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Amy Ellis Nutt covers health and science for The Washington Post.

Click here to learn more.
Comments are closed.
2/1/2015 5:18 PM MST
but then there is this:

which gives all the BENEFITS of Vitamin D
Frown what is a person supposed to do? Take it or not? Guess it depends on your family health history
2/1/2015 3:59 PM MST [Edited]
How fascinating!
Good work, guys!

Is this research applicable to other genes and other cancers/diseases and other unknown vitamin D type factors?
You can no doubt tell how ignorant I am.
Jan Poehlmann
2/1/2015 1:44 PM MST
Ok, so if I had pancreatic cancer and my vitamin D levels are pretty much non-existent, is that a good thing? My doctor has been giving me mega doses of vitamin d, trying to get my numbers up. Should I stop taking it since it actually HELPS pancreatic cancer cells grow?
2/1/2015 4:06 PM MST
Pancreatic cancer is pretty rare, right? Why stop something you must need on the slim chance you might develop pancreatic cancer? Particularly, without showing this to your doctor.
1/31/2015 3:54 PM MST
Excellent article. Thank you.
1/30/2015 12:29 PM MST
Thank you for this article. My family is cursed with this horrid disease. We are grateful to see any progress and sincerely hope that with this breakthrough, the researchers will continue so that the survival rate will increase. Thank you!
1/30/2015 10:36 AM MST
A blessing on the researchers working in unseen labs who strive to find solutions for this terrible cancer.
1/30/2015 11:33 AM MST
Especially for a cancer like pancreatic that is so hard to treat or survive.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Purple Holiday Season

Remembering those not with us 
this holiday season.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I walk because ...

Thanksgiving will never be the same for Jim and his family.  It was his mom's favorite holiday and a day where everyone was welcome in their home.  It was also the day they said good-bye.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

A big thank you Denver!

For all the teams, friends and family that participated in the 8th Annual Lustgarden Foundation for Pancreatic Research Walk.  At last check, we've raised over $82,000 and that doesn't include anything collected today!  
Thanks so much for your on-going contributions and commitment to the cause and for continually paying it forward.

Keep checking back on this site for pictures for all the festivities today and team photos!

Saturday, November 01, 2014

New pancreatic cancer therapy labeled 'breakthrough' by FDA

Researchers have developed a breakthrough therapy in the treatment of one of the world’s deadliest cancers: pancreatic cancer.

Regulators designated Aduro Biotech Inc.'s new combination of CRS-207 and GVAX Pancreas drugs a "breakthrough therapy," putting it on the fast track to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. This means that instead of going through the standard approval process, which typically takes years, it could be only a matter of months before this much-needed therapy is available to patients.

The designation was based on data from an ongoing phase 2 trial of 93 patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who did not respond to other treatments.

According to study results, patients who received the combination of GVAX Pancreas and CRS-207 cancer vaccines had better outcomes than those who received GVAX Pancreas vaccine alone.
The new immune system-boosting treatment’s breakthrough status means it could be on the fast track to FDA approval within a few months. Experts are hopeful that combination immunotherapy could help extend the lives of those with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

What is pancreatic cancer?
The pancreas is a digestive organ located behind the stomach and bounded by the liver, small intestine, and spleen. It secretes enzymes to break down different molecules in the food we ingest and aids in digestion. Pancreatic juices are released into the upper part of the small intestine which help the body to digest fats, carbohydrates and proteins.

As an endocrine gland, the pancreas secretes two hormones, insulin and glucagon, to regulate blood sugar levels during the course of the day. These hormones are released directly into the bloodstream, the former acting to lower blood sugar and the latter to raise it. Maintaining proper blood sugar levels is vital to the body – namely to our brain, liver and kidneys, so they can work appropriately.

How common is it?
According to the National Cancer Institute, upwards of 45,000 new cases of pancreatic cancers were reported in the United States last year. Almost 40,000 patients lost their lives to the disease. Although pancreatic cancer accounts for less than 3 percent of new cancer diagnoses each year, it is the fourth most frequent cause of cancer death for both men and women. Compared to other cancers, the survival rate of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is very low with a 5-year survival rate of about 5 percent.

This, in many ways, is due to the lack of preventative diagnostic tools available for this type of cancer. Unlike prostate or breast cancer, there is no annual test or biomarker that can be measured in order to ensure early diagnosis of the disease.

How is it diagnosed?
The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is still unknown, but certain risk factors like smoking, family history and chronic pancreatitis increase the risk of developing the disease.
Signs of pancreatic cancer usually do not present themselves until the disease is advanced, making it very difficult to diagnose. Some symptoms include:
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Yellowing of skin and whites of eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Blood clots
If your doctor suspects pancreatic cancer, you may have an imaging test like CT or MRI to diagnose the cancer, or a tissue biopsy of the pancreas.

How is it treated?  
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most challenging cancers because it is difficult to diagnose, responds poorly to treatment, and spreads quickly to surrounding organs like the stomach and small intestines. Treatment of pancreatic cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. Depending on the size of the tumor, surgery may remove just a cancerous mass from the pancreas or part of the pancreas itself.

Dr. David B. Samadi is the Chairman of the Department of Urology and Chief of Robotic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He is a board-certified urologist, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of urological disease, with a focus on robotic prostate cancer treatments. Dr. Samadi joined Fox News Channel in 2009 as a medical contributor. To learn more please visit his websites RoboticOncology.com and SMART-surgery.com. Find Dr. Samadi on Facebook.

Denver Pancreatic Cancer Research Events 2014

Sign up today: http://www.pancreaticcancerresearchevents.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1093544

What are you doing tomorrow?

Lustgarten Foundation To HostCome out and help with the Denver Lustgarten Pancreatic Cancer Walk!!!

Has pancreatic cancer affected your family?  

Do you want to help find a cure?  

Then we need your help.  Come and volunteer or even come out and walk, but either way, be there!
Want to Volunteer?  
Click here to learn more or call Ann Walsh at 516.803.2419.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from the 
Lustgarten Foundation 
and all the volunteers fighting to find a cure!

The Purple Pumpkin Project is

2014 Lustgarten Pancreatic Walk in Denver in this weekend. Join us!

You Can Make a Difference! Volunteer Today!

Has pancreatic cancer affected your family?  Do you want to help find a cure?  Then the Denver Lustgarten Pancreatic Cancer Walk need your help!  

After school volunteers neededHere's your opportunity to give to the cause with your time and energy.  Whether you're looking to join the Walk Committee or the want to be a "day of volunteer" call us! We need your help!

Click here to learn more or call Ann Walsh at 516.803.2419.

Thursday, October 30, 2014