Northeastern University professor Robert B. Campbell, who is an Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Northeastern’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences, had a mission to find out why the most popular chemotherapy treatments have such a limited effect on patients with pancreatic cancer, which has the worse survival rates of all cancers. This is due mostly to the fact that it is virtually impossible to detect it while it is still in the early stages of development.
Campbell, along with one of his graduate students, Mr. Ashish V. Kalra, looked at the possibility that mucin – which is a family of proteins- might become like a barrier when they accumulate in excess on the surface of the cancer cells and thereby prevent the drugs from impacting the tumor.
So far, the findings do indicate that this does happen, at least the chemotherapy drug 5-FU.
Epithelial cells, the cells that are found in insides of the lungs, the gastrointestinal tract, the reproductive and urinary tracts, are normally covered with mucin, but it does become overexpressed on cancer cells.
For their research, they focused on the effects of one variety of mucin named MUC. It is found on the surface of healthy epithelial cells as well as on the pancreatic tumor cells, and in the case of the cancer cells, it is there in much greater numbers. They used inhibitors that would limit the amount of MUC1 and found that the inhibitors did nothing to harm the healthy functioning of the cells, but having less of the mucin on the cells did give the 5-FU a big boost and it had a much better effect on the cancer.
They say that by limiting the mucin on the surface of the cancer cells, which greatly reduces the barrier that prevents chemotherapy drugs from getting in and doing their job, they may in fact be able to administer a lower dose of the drugs and get a better effect than they did with larger ones.
There is further research that needs to be done using pre clinical models in order to get a better knowledge of just how this all works and comes together.
Campbell and Kalra suggest that inhibiting the mucin on the surface of pancreatic tumor cells and therefore limiting the barrier that stands in the way of the chemotherapeutic agents, may also lead to the need for smaller amounts of drugs to get the same results. The researchers also say that investigations into the role of mucin during chemotherapy in preclinical models are necessary to better understand the clinical implications of their experimental findings.
Source: Northeasatern University http://newswise.com/