March 3, 2009

Pancreatic cancer gene is identified

University of Michigan researchers have identified a gene that's over-expressed in 90 percent of pancreatic cancers -- the most deadly type of cancer.

The scientists, led by Dr. Diane Simeone, director of the university's multi-disciplinary Pancreatic Cancer Clinic, said expression of the gene ATDC (Ataxia Telangiectasia Group D Complementing gene) is on average 20 times higher in pancreatic cancer cells than in cells from a normal pancreas. And the gene appears to make pancreatic cancer cells resistant to current therapies.

One of the challenges in pancreatic cancer is that it is biologically aggressive and it does not respond well to chemotherapy or radiation, Simeone said. We found ATDC not only causes the cancer cells to grow faster and be more aggressive but it also makes the cancer cells particularly resistant to chemotherapy and radiation. By targeting this gene, we may be able to make cancer cells more sensitive to the therapies we already have in hand.

The research, which included Lidong Wang, David Heidt, Cheong Lee, Huibin Yang, Eric Fearon and Mats Ljungman from the University of Michigan; Craig Logsdon from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; and Lizhi Zhang from the Mayo Clinic, is reported in the journal Cancer Cell.