New target for treating pancreatic cancer

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London: In a new ray of hope for the deadly pancreatic cancer patients, scientists have identified a protein that can be targeted for treating the disease.

Researchers from Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) in Spain have identified a protein called galectin-1 as a possible therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer.

For the first time, they have demonstrated the effects of the inhibition of this protein in mice suffering this type of cancer and the results showed an increase in survival of 20 percent.

"The reduction of galectin-1 mainly affects the immune system and the cells and structure that surrounds the tumour cells, which is called the stroma," said research director Pilar Navarro of IMIM.

"Therefore, galectin-1 as a therapeutic target has great potential," Navarro added.

Until now, the strategies for treating this tumour were aimed at attacking the tumour cells and had little success.

It was known that galectin-1 was not found in the normal pancreas despite being strongly expressed in pancreatic tumours.

"We are aiming at its possible use in pancreatic cancer," said co-researcher and first author Neus MartAnez.

"We have also observed that the elimination of galectin-1 in mice has no harmful consequences, indicating it could be a safe therapeutic target with no adverse effects", she added.

Pancreatic tumours were studied in mice with high levels of galectin-1 and after its depletion.

They observed tumours without this protein showed less proliferation, fewer blood vessels, less inflammation and an increase in the immune response.

All these changes are associated with less aggressive tumours.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the tumours with the worst prognosis, with a survival rate of less than two percent five years after diagnosis.

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