Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Cancer's Armour

Molecular pathway discovered that creates a microenvironment for pancreatic cancer development

31 January 2023

Cancer's Armour

Cancer in any shape or form is horrid, but pancreatic cancer, with its reputation as one of the deadliest forms of the disease, is particularly monstrous. One of the problems with pancreatic cancer is that it can be harder to detect and diagnose than, say, skin or breast cancer. Another problem, according to recent research, is that pancreatic tumour cells protect themselves in a sheath of extracellular matrix that makes them especially tolerant to stress and drugs. Indeed, pancreatic cancers are among the most chemo-resistant of all tumours. The mouse pancreatic cancer-initiating cells pictured (blue) are encased in such a matrix (pink). The good news is, scientists have identified a factor in these cells responsible for ramping up the matrix production. With this knowledge, it might be possible to therapeutically target the factor, or indeed the matrix itself, to break down the protective barrier and allow the cancer-killing chemotherapies in.

Written by Ruth Williams

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