The first-ever study to take an in-depth look at scar tissue in human pancreatic cancer has uncovered key differences among several types of scars and could help doctors better predict which treatment is best suited for patients.
“We are excited to uncover new potential targets for treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer. Scar tissue is a huge barrier in treating pancreatic cancer, where it can form up to 90 percent of the tumour volume, but it is still so poorly understood”, explained Professor Hemant Kocher from Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London.
“Our ongoing mission is to fully understand how the scar tissue influences cancer behaviour so that we can develop more effective treatments for patients with this disease, where sadly very few are successful”, he added.
The American Cancer Society estimates more than 56,000 new diagnoses each year and the disease is associated with some of the lowest survival rates of all cancers. Scar tissue represents a bigger problem than previously thought, as it creates a protective barrier around the tumor, reducing the effectiveness or treatments, be they chemotherapy, immunotherapy or radiation.
By examining samples from patients around the world, including UK, Germany, France, Australia, researchers can now distinguish between at least four different types of scar tissue, each having particular characteristics and influencing the course of the disease in different ways.
“Identifying the four types of scar tissue in our new study will help us better understand how scar tissue and tumour cells interact in pancreatic cancer, and offers new insights into how to tackle this devastating disease”, noted co-lead researcher Dr. Anguraj Sadanandam. “Our work could help pave the way for new personalised medicines, so that in future, people with pancreatic cancer could be offered those treatments most likely to work for them”.
The team used complex computational analysis to examine the dense mass that hinders pancreatic cancer treatment. Initial signs are pointing to at least one of the types being a good target for infection-fighting immune cells.
Now, investigators are hoping to develop tailor-made therapies that would have an improved chance of success.