BETHPAGE, N.Y., Feb. 23, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Researchers have taken an important step forward in understanding why pancreatic cancer is so hard to treat. A new study published online today in the Journal of Experimental Medicine discovered that there are at least two types of fibroblast, which are typically non-cancerous, but contribute to the cancer's development. This is important because it presents another possible area to target with treatment.
"You can think of a pancreas tumor as a big raisin oatmeal cookie, with the raisins representing the cancer cells and oatmeal portion representing the dense stroma that makes up over 90% of the tumor," says David Tuveson, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Research for the Lustgarten Foundation and the Cancer Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
Stroma in pancreatic cancer becomes what scientists call "desmoplastic." Its dense, fibrous texture presents a formidable barrier surrounding a tumor. It consists of connective tissue -- cells called fibroblasts which produce the main part of this connective tissue; and a plethora of immune cell types drawn to the tumor site as well as cells that form blood vessels, which bring nutrients to the tumor.
Fibroblasts form part of the stroma and are typically non-cancerous, but contribute to the cancer's development by secreting, among other factors, structure-providing molecules to the stroma. But that is only one of their functions. Experiments led by Daniel Öhlund, M.D., Ph.D, and team in human- and mouse tumor-derived organoids (a technology now being used in pancreatic cancer developed by Tuveson and his team) demonstrated something not previously known: fibroblasts come in at least two varieties in the major form of pancreatic cancer, called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, or PDA.
This discovery of heterogeneity in the fibroblast portion of the stroma in pancreatic cancer opens up the field to a host of new possibilities.
"Our findings underscore that stroma is not unitary but rather heterogeneous in PDA," Tuveson says, "and this, in turn, provides our team and others in the field an opportunity to develop therapeutic agents that target specific fibroblast populations."
"The traditional view of the tumor stroma as a uniformly pro-tumorigenic niche needs reconsideration since certain fibroblasts subtypes might have pro-tumorigenic properties while others might have anti-tumorigenic properties. Therapeutic development must consider this possibility," Tuveson summarizes.
The paper can be accessed at: http://jem.rupress.org/
About The Lustgarten Foundation
The Lustgarten Foundation is America's largest private foundation dedicated to funding pancreatic cancer research. Based in Bethpage, N.Y., the Foundation supports research to find a cure for pancreatic cancer, facilitates dialogue within the medical and scientific community, and educates the public about the disease through awareness campaigns and fundraising events. Since its inception, the Lustgarten Foundation has directed $132 million to research and assembled the best scientific minds with the hope that one day, a cure can be found. Thanks to private funding, 100 percent of every dollar donated to the Foundation goes directly to pancreatic cancer research. For more information, please visit www.lustgarten.org.
About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,100 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. The Meetings & Courses Program hosts more than 12,000 scientists from around the world each year on its campuses in Long Island and in Suzhou, China. The Laboratory's education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and programs for middle and high school students and teachers. For more information, visit www.cshl.edu
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SOURCE The Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research