Research News

Is a common protein the key to fighting pancreatic cancer?

May, 2017    |

    New research out of the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) offers new hope in the fight against one of the most lethal forms of cancer.

    Studies in mice with the KRAS mutation, which is present in 90 per cent of pancreatic cancer patients, indicate that expressing only half the amount of the glucose-regulated protein GRP78 is enough to halt the earliest stage of pancreatic cancer development.

    This study suggests that GRP78 is required for converting healthy pancreatic cells into potentially cancerous cells. As such, reducing the amount of this protein works to delay pancreatic cancer development.

    “Cancer cells are addicted to high levels of GRP78 for cancer development and growth. Our hope is that partially reducing or inactivating the protein by therapeutic agents could one day be an effective complementary therapy for pancreatic cancer and other cancers, while sparing other healthy organs,” says Amy Lee, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine at the Keck School and the Judy and Larry Freeman Chair in Basic Science Research at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

    GRP78 is a stress-inducible protein that folds newly synthesized proteins and performs quality control in the endoplasmic reticulum. During stress, a fraction of GRP78 is moved to the cell surface to perform additional growth and survival functions. Cancer cells, particularly those that survive treatment, typically undergo more stress than healthy cells, resulting in increased levels of GRP78 to help the cancer cells survive.
    This news brings hope to both the allopathic and natural sides of medicine—different pharmaceuticals can be manufactured to reduce GRP78, while some natural foods and supplements can also help with reduction. Lee notes that both green tea and soy contain natural compounds that can suppress the protein.

Quick facts: Pancreatic Cancer

In 2016, the Canadian Cancer Society estimated that:
• 5,200 Canadians would be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
• 4,700 Canadians would die from pancreatic cancer.