June 7, 2005 A scientist in Liverpool has made a surprise discovery that could predict which pancreatic cancer patients are likely to do better after surgery.
A paper published recently in the journal, Cancer Research, shows that pancreatic cancer patients have better prospects when levels of a specific protein are low or undetectable in the cell nucleus.
The protein at the centre of the discovery is called calcyclin. Its role in pancreatic cancer is unknown, but researchers believe that patients who do not produce this protein have a better outcome. The research was carried out on pancreas cells taken from local patients following surgery.
Calcyclin was found in higher amounts and more frequently in pancreatic cancer cells compared with normal pancreatic cells. Moreover, it was found that the protein was often present in the very early stages of cancer development and before the cancer had become aggressive.
Dr Eithne Costello, from the University's Department of Surgery, who led the research, said: "We do not know whether calcyclin is a marker for pancreatic cancer growth, or whether it is an actual underlying cause promoting the growth and spread of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is particularly difficult to treat and identifying this protein for further research is an important step in understanding pancreatic cancer. We now need to determine what the role of this protein is in pancreatic cancer, and establish what its contribution to the rapid progression of this disease may be."
Dr Lesley Walker, Director of Cancer Information at Cancer Research UK said: "Our knowledge of pancreatic cancer and how it develops is still in its infancy. This research is an important first step in understanding it better. The protein calcyclin looks as though it may have an important role in this disease, and further work is needed to find out what that is."
Information on pancreatic cancer is available on Cancer Research UK's patient information website, Cancer Help UK, http://www.cancerhelp.co.uk
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