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Strides made in research to slow pancreatic cancer


ROME – A team of Italian scientists have found one of the engines that drive cancer of the pancreas, one of the most aggressive tumors, in a discovery that has enabled them to identify a therapeutic target to hopefully slow the advance of the disease.

The research has been led by Milan’s Istituto San Raffaele, with the Istituto Telethon of gene therapy and the Università Vita e Salute.

Also working on the project were the universities of Turin and Verona, the French Institute For Health and Medical Research (INSERM), the Biopolis research center in Singapore and the University of Shanghai.

Favoring the growth of this form of tumor which is still very lethal, the ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas, is a special alliance between a particular type of immune cells, called IL-1beta+ macrophages, and some very aggressive tumor cells, known for being linked to inflammation.

“It’s a sort of self-feeding vicious circle,” said research leader Renato Ostuni, head of the Innate Immune System Genomics Lab at the Istituto Sr-Tiget and associate professor at the Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele.

“The macrophages make the tumor cells more aggressive, and the tumor cells reprogram the macrophages capable of favoring inflammation, and the progression of the disease.”

The authors of the research said: “We have taken a good step forward in the understanding of the biological processes underlying the disease. However, we are at a stage of pre-clinical research, still distant from application in patients.

“The coming years will be essential to identify the potentialities and the most appropriate modalities to act on this new therapeutic target.”

The project was backed by Fondazione Airc, Italy’s cancer research foundation, the European Research Council, and the Italian health ministry.

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