JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered an enzyme they say is tightly linked to how aggressive pancreatic cancer will be in a patient.
They say the study, published in Molecular Cancer Research, provides key insights into the most aggressive form of the disease, which is one of the deadliest human cancers.
It also offers a number of possible future clinical advances, such as a way to gauge outcome in individual patients, and insight into potential therapy to shut down activity of the enzyme, known as Rac1b.
“The implication from our research is that Rac1b is activating unique pathways in pancreatic tumors that make this cancer aggressive. If we can therapeutically target that pathway, we may be able to have an impact on this very difficult-to-treat disease,” says the study’s senior investigator, Derek Radisky, Ph.D., a researcher with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Jacksonville, Fla.
A potential drug target would have to be found within the cancer-causing pathways activated by Rac1b, since the enzyme is difficult to target because it is involved in many normal biological processes, Dr. Radisky says. He and his colleagues are now working to uncover how Rac1b ramps up pancreatic cancer progression.
The RAC1 superfamily of proteins — which play important regulatory roles in cell growth and cell movement — have been implicated in other cancers, such as melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer, but before this study, no one knew that one sub-form, Rac1b, played a role in pancreatic cancer.