Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have found that protein kinase C-iota (PKCi), an oncogene known to be important in colon and lung cancers, is over-produced in pancreatic cancer and is linked to poor patient survival. They also found that genetically inhibiting PKCi in laboratory animals led to a significant decrease in pancreatic tumor growth and spread. The scientists said that their results strongly indicate that PKCi will be an effective target for pancreatic cancer therapy. The discovery is especially encouraging, they said, because an experimental agent that targets PKCi is already being tested in patients at the Mayo Clinic for other indications. "This is the first study to establish a role for PKCi in growth of pancreatic cancer, so it is exciting to know that an agent already exists that targets PKCi which we can now try in preclinical studies," said the study's senior investigator, Dr. Nicole Murray, of the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Cancer Biology. The drug, aurothiomalate, which was once used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, is now being tested in a Phase 1 clinical trial in patients with lung cancer at the Mayo Clinic's sites in Minnesota and Arizona. Based on findings to date, a Phase 2 clinical trial is being planned to combine aurothiomalate with agents targeted at other molecules involved in cancer growth. Dr. Murray stressed that her group’s new study has not yet tested aurothiomalate against pancreatic cancer, but that any treatment that targets this major cancer pathway offers a new avenue for therapy. "This is such a deadly disease. No standard treatment has shown much promise," she said. "New ideas and fresh, targeted therapies such as this are sorely needed." Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, with an overall 5-year survival rate of less than 5 percent.
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