If Apple founder Steve Jobs was alive today, he would have rushed to the latest discovery of scientists to restore pancreatic cancer cells to their original state by introducing a protein.
The new method has potential therapeutic approach to fight the lethal pancreatic disease that could save the likes of Steve Jobs.
“For the first time, we have shown that overexpression of a single gene can reduce the tumour-promoting potential of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells and reprogramme them toward their original cell type,” said Pamela Itkin-Ansari, adjunct professor at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in the US.
The pancreatic cancer cells retain a genetic memory which the scientists sought to exploit. The study generated human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cell lines to make higher than normal levels of the protein E47.
The increased amount of E47 made the pancreatic cancer cells to revert back to the state of normal cells. When these reprogrammed cancer cells were introduced into mice, their ability to form tumours dramatically diminished compared to untreated adenocarcinoma cells.
“Presently, pancreatic adenocarcinoma is treated with cytotoxic agents, yet the average survival for patients post-diagnosis is merely six months, and the improvements in therapies are measured in days,” said Prof Andrew Lowy of the University of California San Diego Moores Cancer Center.
“The finding that we can differentiate these cancer cells back to a non-threatening phenotype is encouraging,” Lowy added and the findings have been published in the journal Pancreas.
Itkin-Ansari said her lab has collaborated with a local biotech company ViaCyte in a CIRM funded study to encapsulate human embryonic stem cell derived pancreas cells. “Together we demonstrated that the cells differentiate into fully functional islets inside the device and cure diabetes in mice. Remarkably, the cells functioned well even when the device was transplanted just under the skin, making the procedure minimally invasive,” said her note on the website.