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New potential approach to treat pancreatic cancer is unveiled by LIMR researcher and colleagues

December 2, 2015 Research News

Blocking the actions of a specific protein has been shown to stop the malignant qualities of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), according to new studies from an investigative team that included Janet Sawicki, PhD, professor at Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR), part of Main Line Health.

The researchers, whose study was published in the September 29, 2015, issue of the medical journal Oncotarget, showed that inhibiting the actions of HuR, an mRNA-binding protein, significantly decreased the growth and spread of PDA cells. The vast majority of pancreatic cancer cases are classified as PDAs.

“PDA is a type of cancer that currently has a poor prognosis and high morbidity,” said Dr. Sawicki. “Our hope is that this study will point the way to a promising novel approach to the treatment of this devastating disease.”

Past studies have shown that HuR regulates core biological processes such as cell growth. The investigators demonstrated that mice whose HuR had been blocked showed a marked reduction in PDA tumor growth. The study provided evidence that targeted HuR inhibition impairs the malignant characteristics of PDA cells in preclinical models.

Dr. Sawicki is a cancer biologist whose long-standing research objective has been to develop an effective therapy for metastatic cancer. She has more than 30 years of experience in cancer biology, 15 of which have focused on the development of cancer treatments.

In addition to Dr. Sawicki, the HuR investigative team included scientists from Thomas Jefferson University and Drexel University. Their work was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society and several private philanthropic foundations.

About Lankenau Institute for Medical Research

Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR) is a nonprofit biomedical research institute located on the campus of Lankenau Medical Center and is part of Main Line Health. Founded in 1927, LIMR’s mission is to improve human health and well-being. Faculty and staff are devoted to advancing innovative new approaches to formidable medical challenges, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders and autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis. LIMR’s principal investigators conduct basic, preclinical and translational research, using their findings to explore ways to improve disease detection, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. They are committed to extending the boundaries of human health through technology transfer and training of the next generation of scientists and physicians.