Researchers develop “pancreas in a dish” to combat the silent cancer

By the time people know they have pancreatic cancer, they often have a poor prognosis, because the disease can get undetected within the pancreas for up to 15 to 20 years. So it might be too late when the disease is diagnosed  later stages .85% of patients die within nine months of diagnosis. A new study sheds light on how this cancer spreads throughout the body.

It reports that the cancer’s spread is controlled by epigenetics, which means changes that aren’t hardwired into DNA, but affect how genes are expressed. The researchers had grown cells which mimic the shape and behavior of the pancreas known as pancreatic organoids. These organoids might one day lead to personalized cancer treatments.

Pancreatic cancer will become the second-leading cause of cancer death compared to colon and breast cancer. The main reason is because there are no survivors. Pancreatic tumors regularly break off and spread to far-flung regions of the body which is known as metastasis. The researchers have a good understanding on how pancreatic cells become tumor cells but have little knowledge on how they metastasize to distant organs.

To understand the cancer’s spread, Hwang and colleagues collected pancreatic tumors and their metastases from mice and grew the cells in a dish. The cells form tiny 3D structures known as organoids, which acts exactly like pancreatic cells.

When the researchers compared organoids from the initial tumor to organoids from the metastases, they didn’t find major genetic differences. But they did see that metastatic organoids had more active enhancers short regions of DNA that boost gene expression by binding to proteins.

Because organoids are grown from a patient’s cells, others may be able to use them to personalize cancer treatments. Scientists can grow organoids from a tumor, treat those organoids with a variety of drugs, and see which drugs work best before administering the drug to a patient. But this will take time. It is something that pancreatic cancer patients have in short supply.

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Orignal source : GEN