95% of patients with pancreatic cancer die within 5 years of their diagnosis, making it the most lethal of all common cancers. One of the principle reasons for the low life expectancy rate is that there are never two genetically identical cases, which ultimately means that tumours of this type are more likely to develop resistance to the drugs.
As a result, in recent times, some genomic studies are being directed to the location of common mutations in different cases of pancreatic cancer treatments that allow a greater chance of success.
Despite the fact that different genetic mutations of these cancers vary between patients (as well as cases), all tumours of this type have their origin in the same metabolic changes that help the disease to develop.
A team of researchers from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research of Sydney (Australia), led by Darren Saunders, has recently developed a new approach to pancreatic cancer. The innovative nature of his research is based on a dual search: an analysis of possible variations in the genome of tumours from different patients, and a detailed study of the biological process that occurs in tumour cells.
In order to carry out this analysis, the researchers modified the standard approach to this type of study, replacing the samples of dead tumour cells of patients with living cells that were grafted into mice. The development of tumour cells in animals permitted the generation of a greater amount of tissue to be analysed in the laboratory.
This live bank of cancer cells allowed researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research Sydney a detailed analysis of not only the cell’s genetic structure, but also an opportunity to study how mitochondrial mutations cause changes in the cell’s own metabolism.
To analyse the metabolism of tumour cells a technique called metabolomics was put into practice, which consists of crushing live tumour cells and measuring the metabolites (molecules used or produced during metabolism) they contain using a mass spectrometer.
After a cross-analysis of mitochondrial DNA from each tumour with metabolic data, the researchers concluded that pancreatic cancer cells not only consume glucose (as all cells do), but also glutamine (an amino acid involved in the composition of proteins), which indicates that the production of fatty acids would enable the proliferation of tumours.
We at Best Doctors are always pleased to publish each investigation and discovery of this kind, to the extent that it represents a further step forward towards finding new solutions to deal with a terrible disease like cancer. In this case, the information may be even more valuable since the life expectancy for this type of cancer is considered one of the lowest.