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Scientists discover two enzymes that are linked to pancreatic cancer, making a more precise treatment possible

Scientists have discovered how the ratio of two enzymes could predict the chances of survival of pancreatic cancer.

High levels of enzyme PHLPP1 and low levels of enzyme PKC in pancreatic tumors were linked to a poor prognosis, results of a new study found. But the reverse had better chances of survival.

The team, from the University of California's San Diego School of Medicine, says the findings could lead to the use of enzyme levels to predict the prognosis of pancreatic cancer.

They hope that this can lead to the development of drugs that promote the activity of the enzyme that inhibits tumors and offers potential treatment for people suffering from the disease, such as Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek.

A new study from the San Diego School of Medicine at the University of California has discovered how the ratio of two enzymes can help predict pancreatic cancer survival and even lead to treatment for patients such as Alex Trebek (photo, April 2017)

A new study from the San Diego School of Medicine at the University of California has discovered how the ratio of two enzymes can help predict pancreatic cancer survival and even lead to treatment for patients such as Alex Trebek (photo, April 2017)

Pancreatic cancer is caused by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas, a large gland in the digestive system.

It usually shows no symptoms in the early stages. Sufferers tend to develop signs, such as back pain and jaundice, when it has spread to other organs.

According to the American Cancer Society, around 56,000 will be diagnosed in the US in 2019 and about 45,000 will die.

Less than seven percent of patients survive five years, which means that pancreatic cancer has one of the worst survival rates of all common cancers.

The new study builds on the work of the team in 2015 that demonstrated that the enzyme PKC, thought to promote tumor growth, actually suppressed it.

& # 39; It was thought to be an oncogene, something that caused cancer, & # 39 ;, the first author Tim Baffi, a graduate student at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, told DailyMail.com.

& # 39; Scientists had tried to develop drugs that hampered PKC, but all of those failed. So when it became known that PKC is a tumor suppressor, there was a big paradigm shift in the field. & # 39;

WHAT IS PANCREATIC CANCER?

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of the disease. About 95 percent of people who contract it die of it.

Joan Crawford, Patrick Swayze and Luciano Pavarotti all died of pancreatic cancer.

It is the fifth largest killer in the United States. About 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer annually in the UK and 50,000 in the US.

WHAT IS THE CAUSE?

It is caused by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas – a large gland in the digestive system.

WHO HAS THE HIGHEST RISK?

The majority of cases (90 percent) are for people over 55. Approximately half of all new cases occur in people aged 75 or older. One in ten cases is attributed to genetics.

Other causes are age, smoking and other health problems, including diabetes. About 80 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer have a form of diabetes.

WHY IS IT SO LETHAL?

There is no screening method for pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer usually shows no symptoms in the early stages, when it would be more manageable.

Sufferers tend to develop the tell-tale lights – jaundice and abdominal pain – around phase 3 or 4, when it has probably spread to other organs.

WHAT ARE THE SURVIVAL RATES?

For all stages of pancreatic cancer combined, the one-year survival rate is 20 percent. After five years, that percentage drops to just nine percent.

If the cancer is caught in phase 1A, the five-year survival rate is around 14 percent and 12 percent for 1B.

In phase 2, these percentages are seven and five percent respectively. For a third stage pancreatic cancer, only three percent of people will survive five years.

In stage IV, the five-year survival rate drops to just one percent.

WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS?

The only effective treatment is the removal of the pancreas. This appears to be largely ineffective for those whose cancer has spread to other organs. In those cases, palliative care is advised to relieve their pain at the end of their life.

Baffi said the lab at the UC San Diego School of Medicine in 2005 had discovered another enzyme called PHLPP1.

This enzyme, she discovered, regulates the tumor that inhibits tumor growth.

When the tumor suppressor switch & # 39; to & # 39; state, & # 39; labels & # 39; the other enzyme it and ensures that it is destroyed.

& # 39; This means that the more PHLPP1 you have, the less PKC you have, & # 39; said Baffi.

For the study, published in the journal Molecular Cell, the team looked at 105 pancreatic cancer tumors to analyze the enzyme levels in each tumor.

About 50 percent of the patients lived longer than five and a half years.

They found that patients with a poor survival rate had a high level of survival regulating enzyme and low levels of the tumor-to suppress enzyme.

Conversely, those with better results had a low level regulating enzyme and high levels of the tumor suppressing one, which led to much better results.

Knowing this distinction, says Baffi, is an important step in the battle to crack this notoriously elusive type of cancer.

In theory, drug compounds could promote the activity of the tumor-suppressing enzyme to shift the ratio in patients with poorer odds.

That is what Baffi & # 39; s team is investigating.

& # 39; This has important implications, especially for pancreatic cancer therapy, & # 39; he said.

& # 39; The first is that it could be to predict the cancer prognosis – whether it's good or not – and, secondly, the can also lead to an ability to target cancer at drug therapies.

& # 39; Trying to understand the biochemistry behind cancer, what happens behind these diseases, can lead to treatment. & # 39;

The notoriously difficult-to-treat illness came to the forefront earlier this month when Alex Trebek, the 78-year-old host of Jeopardy, revealed that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

In a video posted on the YouTube game show page, he revealed that the prognosis & # 39; not very encouraging & # 39; used to be.

& # 39; I … wanted to prevent you from reading or hearing some exaggerated or inaccurate reports about my health & # 39 ;, he told the fans.

& # 39; Normally the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I am going to fight this and I will keep working.

& # 39; And with the love and support of my family and friends and with the help of your prayers, I intend to beat the low survival rates for this disease.

& # 39; The truth told, I have to! Because under the conditions of my contract I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years!

& # 39; So help me. Keep the faith and we will win. We will get it done. Thank you. & # 39;

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