RNA molecule in blood could be indicator of pancreatic cancer
14 November 2013
A specific RNA molecule is present in the blood of most
pancreatic cancer patients, according to research at Indiana
University, suggesting it could be a diagnostic marker for the
usually fatal disease.
Research published in the journal Oncogene, showed that
the RNA molecule microRNA-10b (or miR-10b)- is present at high
levels in the blood of most pancreatic cancer patients.
Consequently, miR-10b could serve as a diagnostic marker as well as
help physicians determine the disease’s aggressiveness.
Such a marker would be an advance against pancreatic cancer
because current treatments typically only extend a person’s life for
six to 10 weeks. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect and
diagnose because there are no noticeable signs or symptoms in the
early stages and because the pancreas is hidden behind other organs
such as the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, spleen and
Dr Murray Korc, the Myles Brand Professor of Cancer Research at
the Indiana University School of Medicine and a researcher at the
Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, and
colleagues made the discovery after studying biopsies of people with
pancreatic cancer. Dr. Korc showed that miR-10b promotes the
invasion and growth of pancreatic cancer cells by modulating
signaling and gene expression. In particular, the miR-10b
facilitates abnormal signaling by allowing the epidermal growth
factor receptor, a protein made by many cells in the body and by
some types of tumors, to be more efficient. Therefore, the cancer
grows and spreads.
Dr. Korc likened the presence of miR-10b to a souped-up car that
is more like a tank because of the enhancements. So, for those
people with miR-10b, their pancreatic cancer is especially
aggressive. And pancreatic cancer is already an aggressive disease
without that molecule.
Only 6% of people with the disease survive more than five years
after diagnosis. According to the National Cancer Institute, there
will be an estimated 45,220 new cases of pancreatic cancer and
38,460 deaths from the disease in 2013.
Those patients with high levels of miR-10b resist chemotherapy
more and their disease returns sooner after treatment than those
without the molecule, Dr. Korc added. He said more research is
needed, as these findings are preliminary.
The findings follow recent research at Johns Hopkins Medicine in
the US that found two genes, BNC1 and ADAMTS1, which were detectable
in 81% of blood samples in pancreatic cancer patients.
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