A receptor for the dopamine neurotransmitter (DRD2—dopamine receptor D2) promotes growth and spread of pancreatic cancer -- and schizophrenia drugs, which block the function of this receptor, slowed tumor growth and metastatic spread in mice, according to researchers at McGill University and the German Cancer Research Center. Cancer of the pancreas is an extremely aggressive disease with a dismal prognosis. “While the overall five-year survival rate of all cancer patients stands at 63%, it is only about 5% for pancreatic cancer – a number that has remained largely unchanged for the last three decades,” notes Yasser Riazalhosseini, Ph.D., Professor of Human Genetics at McGill and corresponding author of the new study, published online on August 28, 2016 in the journal Gastroenterology. “The tumors do not cause any signs or symptoms for a long time and are therefore diagnosed late,” says Jörg Hoheisel from the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, or DKFZ) in Heidelberg, who co-led the study with Dr. Riazalhosseini. “In addition, the tumor biology is very aggressive, i.e., the cancer starts spreading metastases early on. And to make things even worse, pancreatic cancer rapidly develops resistance against available chemotherapy drugs.” The new Gastroenterology article is titled “Expression of DRD2 is Increased in Human Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma and Inhibitors Slow Tumor Growth in Mice.” Along with colleagues from Heidelberg, Tübingen, Liverpool, and Verona, the McGill and DKFZ researchers undertook a large-scale analysis of gene activities in 195 pancreatic cancer cases. “We leveraged quantitative and computational biology approaches that we have established in order to identify genes that may play a central role in several pancreatic cancer-relevant signaling pathways.
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