They find "the trigger" of pancreatic cancer metastases

Two different research groups, one from the US and the other from the UK, separately claim to have found the key that explains the spread of the tumor and place it in different molecules

Fermin Apezteguia

Science begins to put an end to pancreatic cancer. Two different research groups, one American and the other British, have announced this Wednesday, each on their own, having found the key that explains the metastases in this disease, which is considered the most lethal of oncological pathologies. Only one in ten people manage to survive five years after receiving the diagnosis. The tumor, as explained in its various publications, begins to spread when a molecule fails, which for Americans is an enzyme and for Europeans, a protein.

Perhaps the two phenomena that both groups describe are closely related to each other. The good news is that these two discoveries represent the second or third breakthrough in the same month in the fight against pancreatic tumors. Just fifteen days ago, the National Cancer Research Center (CNIO) announced the development of a whole catalog of biological markers that will allow both the timely diagnosis of the most aggressive tumors and the selection of the most appropriate therapy. The analysis of almost 7,880 samples belonging to 33 different types of cancer allowed the group, in collaboration with the Cambridge Institute in the United Kingdom, to design a powerful diagnostic tool, from which patients with tumors of the lung, ovary, esophagus and also pancreas.

The 'cleanser' of aging

From today, there is more. Scientists from California, in collaboration with a group from Columbia University in New York, have discovered that there is an enzyme called MSRA, which is key in the birth and development of pancreatic cancer. That molecule, they say, has the ability to "erase" oxidative damage in this organ, which is caused by the natural aging of the body or poor lifestyle habits. Without it, without that MSRA, there is a cancer cell protein that goes out of control and begins to produce energy at an accelerated rate. In this way, they graphically describe, "it sows the whole body with new cancers."

The researchers came to this conclusion by reducing levels of the 'eraser enzyme' both in live mice and in laboratory-grown human and rodent cells. In both cases, the consequence of this measure was the migration of cancer cells through the body, or what is the same, the appearance of metastases. Scientists will now try to see if this enzyme acts in the same way in other cancers; or if this is a process limited to the disease that claimed, among others, the lives of the tenor Luciano Pavarotti, the musician Henry Mancini, the actor John Hurt or the computer magnate Steve Jobs.

New therapies will come

In parallel, a British group also announces today in 'Nature' that it has identified "a key protein that helps convert pancreatic cancer cells into a more aggressive form." Its name is GREM1 and they assure that this finding is "essential" to "pave the way for the design of new treatments" against the disease. «Science – they assure, at the same time, with humility – is still in an initial stage. A great deal of research will still be required to discover and develop treatments that change the fate of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cells. That is, the most common and aggressive of the forms of the disease.

There is a curious fact in this story. All these advances against pancreatic cancer come to light just after a Basque company, the biopharmaceutical company Oncomatryx, announced last May that it had applied to the American Medicines Agency (FDA) and the Spanish Agency (AEMPS) for authorization to test patients which is called to become the first oncological therapy against this disease. The new treatment, which is being tested in humans for the first time with patients from the US and Spain, is believed to be the first of a new generation of drugs against solid metastatic tumors.

Two different research groups, one from the US and the other from the UK, separately claim to have found the key that explains the spread of the tumor and place it in different molecules

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