Novel Therapeutic Target Identified for Pancreatic Cancer

According to Medical XPress, researchers out of the Queen Mary University of London have been making strides in the field of medical research, particularly around pancreatic cancer. After identifying a novel therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer—the CEACAM7 protein—researchers were able to create a specialized CAR T-cell therapy designed to damage and ultimately kill pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells. In fact, their therapy was successful within pre-clinical models. See the full findings published in Clinical Cancer Research.

CAR T-cell Therapy

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute defines CAR T-cell therapy as:

a form of immunotherapy that uses specially altered T cells — a part of the immune system — to fight cancer. A sample of a patient’s T cells are collected from the blood, then modified to produce special structures called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface.

Once the altered cells are re-administered to the patient, the CARs bind to antigens on cancerous cells, killing them. In the past, CAR T-cell therapy has shown benefits for hematological cancers. However, this type of therapy has not been as successful in treating patients with solid tumors.

In this study, researchers used immunostaining to evaluate samples of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells. Through comparing these cells with normal cells, researchers discovered that Carcinoembryonic Antigen-Related Cell Adhesion Molecule 7 (CEACAM7) was found in large amounts in pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells. However, tonsil, liver, and lung tissue, alongside that of other organs, did not express this protein. Thus, researchers determined that CEACAM7 was a novel therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer.

Next, researchers created a specialized CAR T-cell therapy designed to target CEACAM7. After applying these to pancreatic cancer cells in a pre-clinical setting, they determined that the CAR T-cell therapy effectively targeted and killed cancerous cells. In the future, additional research is needed to determine if this type of therapy could be effective for patients without additional toxicity concerns.

Pancreatic Cancer

Much as the name suggests, pancreatic cancer forms in the pancreas, an organ behind the lower part of the stomach. Normally, the pancreas releases both hormones and enzymes, which aid in blood sugar management and digestion. There are a few main subsets of pancreatic cancer, including pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, which occur in the pancreas’ hormone-producing cells, and exocrine pancreatic cancer, a common form also known as pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Without treatment, pancreatic cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Unfortunately, this cancer is also difficult to detect in early stages. Risk factors include age (45+), smoking tobacco, and obesity.

Symptoms include:

  • Back and abdominal pain
  • Diabetes
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite loss
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Bloating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dark urine or light-colored stool
  • Depression
  • Obstructed bowel
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Pruritus (extreme itching)

Learn more about pancreatic cancer.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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