How Pancreatic Cancer Cells Survive Starvation

Pancreatic Cancer Cells obtain Nutrients through Nerves

Research findings on cancer cells have shown that cells implicated in pancreatic cancer are able to avert starvation by signaling. This signal is transmitted to nerves which grow into dense tumors and secrete nutrients.

The deadliest pancreatic cancer Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDAC), with a less than 10 percent five-year survival rate was the main focus of the study. This kind of tumors foster the growth of dense tissue that presses on blood vessels, this causes a reduction in the supply of nutrients traveling in the blood stream. Examples include amino acids used in the building of proteins and is also essential in the multiplication of cancer cells.

Pancreatic cancer cells undergoing starvation secrete a protein called nerve-growth-factor, which sends signals to extensions of nerve cells, instructing them to initiate deep growth into tumors. This kind of extensions referred to as axons secrete the amino acid serene, capable of causing growth of the pancreatic cancer cells and preventing starvation.

This is clear evidence that pancreatic cancers are efficient metabolic scavengers making them highly lethal. This unique characteristic of nerves to divert blood-borne nutrients to the pancreatic tumor microenvironment is a unique survival adaptation and could result in therapeutic approaches that interfere with this unique flexibility.

The study found that pancreatic cancer cells starved of serine take advantage of the process by which messenger RNA (mRNA) strands, copies of DNA instructions, undergo translation into proteins. Backbones of mRNA molecular strands referred to as bases are decoded into amino acids using codons a three-base units. Ribosomes read each codon as they link amino acids together but stall if there is a short of amino acids.

Nerve growth factor and other factors encourage the growth of nerves into pancreatic tumors and to increase tumor growth as well. This study showed that axons, extensions of neuronal cells that transmit their signals provide metabolic support to cancer cells by secreting serine in nutrient-deprived areas.

The applications of this study in the therapy of PDAC is demonstrated as PDAC tumors fed serine-free diets saw 50 percent slower tumor growth. In preventing the supply of nutirents by axons recruited by PDAC tumors, a drug called LOXO-101 was administered. The drug blocked the activation of a receptor protein on the surface of neurons that interacts with NGF thereby inhibiting the ability of neurons to send their axons into tumors. Although clinical trials is required to confirm this.

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