Stroma Cells May Inhibit the Growth of Pancreatic Cancer Tumors

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Stroma Cells May Inhibit the Growth of Pancreatic Cancer Tumors

  1. 1. Cancer Cells May Fight Pancreatic Cancer in Earlier Stages A new study presented by Dr. Paul E. Oberstein and Dr. Kenneth P. Olive in the journal Cancer Cell came to a surprising conclusion regarding one of the most common types of pancreatic cancer known as Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDAC). PDAC makes up 90% of pancreatic cancer cases and has a very poor outlook. The average survival rate is just 6 months after a patient has been diagnosed. PDAC tumors are made up of both tumor and stromal cells. Stroma is the connective tissue in organs, and includes both fibroblast (tissue that provides structure to cells) and cellular material such as collagen. Stromal cells are of particular interest to researchers as many think they play a strong role in the development of cancer. In a previous study, Dr. Olive reduced the content of stromal cells in mice with pancreatic cancer by blocking a molecular pathway used by these cells and then treated the mice with chemotherapy. The mice treated with the combination of blocked stromal cells and chemotherapy survived longer than those treated with either of these options alone, or those that received no treatment at all. But, when this was tested in humans the opposite occurred. Comparing the two, studies Dr. Oberstein and Dr. Olive surmised that the difference could be due to the fact that human patients were given chemotherapy for a longer period of time. Perhaps the combination of reduced stromal cells and chemotherapy had one effect in a shorter treatment cycle and a different effect in a longer one. To test this they repeated the study with mice that were in an earlier stage of the disease and treated them with chemotherapy longer. Now the chemotherapy reduced survival similar to the results of the human clinical trial. Working with collaborators Ben Stanger at the University of Pennsylvania and Andrew Rhim from the University of Michigan, Drs. Olive and Oberstein demonstrated that there are certain cell types in a tumor that might actually inhibit cancer growth. These findings were not expected and disproved a common theory about pancreatic cancer tumors. Ongoing work will study how these stromal cells may actually inhibit tumor growth. For more information on cancer research and treatment at Columbia University Medical Center visit the Division of Hematology/Oncology web page. The full article Stromal Elements Act to Restrain, Rather Than Support, Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma is available on Cancer Cell.

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