Researchers at the Dana-Farber Institute in Boston have discovered that advanced pancreatic cancer in mice can't survive without a gene called Kras which is at the heart of how tumours' develop and grow. This discovery has expanded scientific knowledge of pancreatic cancer by a huge amount and it is hoped will bring about the development of more targeted therapies to treat the disease.
Researchers found that advanced pancreatic cancers are "addicted" to the Kras oncogene for their continued growth. When they shut down the gene in mice, the pancreatic tumours rapidly shrank, and, in some cases, left no visible signs of cancer.
It is already known that the Kras oncogene is an important driver in pancreatic cancer but the key question that researchers set out to answer was whether cancer cells that developed spontaneously in the pancreas needed Kras to survive. In order to do this they created a mouse model of the disease in which the gene could be switched on and off with diet changes.
The tumours in the mice started to shrink in two or three days once the oncogene was switched off and then shriveled by an average of 50 percent after a week. They also showed they were no longer consuming glucose which serves as fuel for cells, meaning they were inactive.
Read the full transcript in Cell.
Read the news release from the Dana-Farber Institute.
Source: Dana-Farber Institute, dailyRx
*An oncogene is a gene that, when mutated or expressed at high levels, helps turn a normal cell into a tumor cell.