Early Biomarker for Pancreatic Cancer Identified

Captured by University of California, San Diego Health Sciences

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center have identified a new biomarker and therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer, an often-fatal disease for which there is currently no reliable method for early detection or therapeutic intervention.  The paper will be published May 15 in Cancer Research.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, or PDAC, is the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related death.  Newly diagnosed patients have a median survival of less than one year, and a 5-year survival rate of only 3 to 5 percent. Therefore, biomarkers that can identify early onset of PDAC and which could be viable drug targets are desperately needed.

“We found that a kinase called PEAK1 is turned on very early in pancreatic cancer,” said first author Jonathan Kelber, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the UCSD Department of Pathology and Moores Cancer Center.  “This protein was clearly detected in biopsies of malignant tumors from human patients – at the gene and the protein levels – as well as in mouse models.”

PEAK1 is a type of tyrosine kinase – an enzyme, or type of protein, that speeds up chemical reactions and acts as an “on” or “off” switch in many cellular functions.  The fact that PEAK1 expression is increased in human PDAC and that its catalytic activity is important for PDAC cell proliferation makes it an important candidate as a biomarker and therapeutic target for small molecule drug discovery.

In addition to showing that levels of PEAK1 are increased during PDAC progression, the scientists found that PEAK1 is necessary for the cancer to grow and metastasize. Read more…

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