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Medicine Science

Protein Converts Pancreatic Cancer Cells Back Into Healthy Cells 52

An anonymous reader writes: Scientists working in the area of pancreatic cancer research have uncovered a technique that sees cancerous cells transform back into normal healthy cells. The method relies in the introduction of a protein called E47, which bonds with particular DNA sequences and reverts the cells back to their original state. The study (abstract) was a collaboration between researchers at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, University of California San Diego and Purdue University. The scientists are hopeful that it could help combat the deadly disease in humans.
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Protein Converts Pancreatic Cancer Cells Back Into Healthy Cells

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  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @04:41PM (#49523009)

    I bet we find a cure for all kinds of cancers before we find a cure for the common cold.

    • by Misagon ( 1135 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @04:49PM (#49523089)

      The problem is that neither cancer nor cold are of "common" types: there are quite a few types of each.
      One man's cancer could be quite different from another man's, even if they are both found at the same place in the body. The pancreatic cancer mentioned in the article is only one type of pancreatic cancer, although it is the most common form that would originally form there. Cancer in the pancreas could also be another type of cancer that was formed elsewhere and metastasized.
      Similarly, there are many different viruses that can cause "cold".

      • True (Score:5, Insightful)

        by goldcd ( 587052 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @05:14PM (#49523311) Homepage
        But my memory of what's special about Pancreatic Cancer - is that you are f*cked to a high degree of certainty if you get it.

        Not the most common type of cancer, and there are many types of it - but for those with this cancer, in this place, it's pretty damn important as there weren't a surfeit of alternatives.
        • Re:True (Score:5, Informative)

          by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @06:15PM (#49523681)
          While I doubt that's the exact medical terminology used, it's quite correct.

          The five year survival rate is only 6% [pancreatic.org] although it apparently can get up to ~20% in limited circumstances.

          If this works as well hoped, it would be a rather big deal because right now it's practically a death sentence.
          • While I doubt that's the exact medical terminology used, it's quite correct. The five year survival rate is only 6% [pancreatic.org] although it apparently can get up to ~20% in limited circumstances. If this works as well hoped, it would be a rather big deal because right now it's practically a death sentence.

            Although, for some perspective, from Wikipedia for Glioblastoma multiforme [wikipedia.org] (brain tumor):

            GBM is a rare disease, with an incidence of 2–3 cases per 100,000 person life-years in Europe and North America ... Median survival with standard-of-care radiation and chemotherapy with temozolomide is 15 months. Median survival without treatment is 4½ months.

            Sure, it's *way* more rare, but treatment options suck. My wife Sue died of this in early 2006, just 7 weeks after diagnosis - her only complaint was a persistent headache and mild disorientation. Remember Sue... [tumblr.com]

        • by Burdell ( 228580 )

          Yep. My grandfather was an outlier - he lived IIRC about 8 years, and about 7 of that pretty good outside of chemo IIRC every 6 weeks. A former cow-orker was diagnosed and didn't make 6 months.

          From what I understand, part of the problem with the common forms of pancreatic cancer is there aren't many symptoms until it spreads, and once it spreads, it is aggressive and kills rapidly.

      • But Pancreatic cancer is, on the whole, really uncool.

        It's harder to operate on than most cancers and has a higher kill rate. Progress like this is very helpful.

      • There's a really good documentary on the evolution of cancer treatments on PBS right now, and one stark fact (that I've noticed elsewhere prior as well) made obvious is just how generic the term cancer is. It's really just any of a million specific types of genetic errors that lead to uncontrolled growth.

        Even within the same type of tissue, you can have multiple types of mutations that result in the same effect (uncontrolled growth), hence the different "types" of pancreatic cancer for example. The con
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Unlikely. The common cold is a collection of well known rhinoviruses -- a very specific virus and we have quite a few anti-viral and inoculations against viruses. Cancer on the other hand, is the cell division process gone amok and it can happen in many different ways for each cell. If by "kind of cancer" you mean one of the many ways it can run amok then, maybe we will find cures for individual kinds of cancer. Unfortunately that doesn't mean we have cured cancer or even cancer of a specific organ syst

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @05:03PM (#49523217) Homepage

      I should hope we do.

      Pissing about curing someone's sniffle that'll be gone tomorrow when we could have spent that time/money pushing cancer research - no matter how slow and small a contribution - seems a bloody bad trade-off.

    • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @05:06PM (#49523241)

      The cure for a cold is to wait 2 weeks.

    • by vossman77 ( 300689 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @05:11PM (#49523283) Homepage

      Who knows we may use the common cold to actually cure cancer. [wikipedia.org]

      • I saw a movie like this once ... it had zombies or something.

        • by TimSSG ( 1068536 )

          I saw a movie like this once ... it had zombies or something.

          I am ready a book series about a Flu vaccine that triggered Zombie outbreaks across the USA. Tim S.

          • by Zordak ( 123132 )
            I'm reading a book about a Zombie outbreak that triggered a flu pandemic across the USA. But it's a really bad flu strain, with like a 17% higher mortality rate than Swine Flu.
      • by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @07:13PM (#49524057)

        E47-inducible cell lines were generated by infection with
        a retroviral vector expressing E47 fused to a tamoxifen-inducible
        modified estrogen receptor (MER).

        The way this was done was really clever: it uses a virus that causes cancer to treat cancer. Specifically, the retroviral vector is an engineered strain of Moloney Murine Leukemia Virus (MoMuLV), which can cause leukemia in mice (it is not known to cause disease in humans, though retroviral infection does carry at least a small risk of mutagenesis). The viral vector inserts a gene that expresses the protein E47, which acts in a variety of ways to make cancer cells revert to acting like healthy cells.

        This is an exciting idea, though as the press release notes, "we are screening for molecules—potential drugs—that can induce overexpression of E47." That's a way of noting that retroviral vector gene therapy is in its infancy, and that it would be much better if we could find a small molecule instead.

        These findings prompted us to ask whether
        the growth arrest and acinar gene expression induced in vitro
        might be sufficient to diminish the tumor-forming potential of
        these aggressively growing cells. Indeed, temporary induction of
        E47 for 2 to 8 days in vitro produced stable cell cycle arrest and
        trypsinogen expression in transplanted human PDA cells. It will
        now be of interest to investigate the effects of E47 on the growth
        dynamics of established tumors.

        And also the above- established tumors notoriously mutate and become genetically heterogeneous over time, greatly increasing the chances that at least some of the cancer cells are resistant to whatever line of attack you throw at them. Cancer cells that have mutant forms of E47's targets wouldn't be reprogrammed. Still, any advance against pancreatic cancer is highly welcome.

    • Fighting cancer is fighting evolution itself.

      Your body is composed of some 40 trillion cells. Each one comes from a line of cells going back billions of generations, every one of which succeeded in reproducing and projecting itself into the future. DNA is not easily squelched.

      • Fighting cancer is fighting evolution itself.

        Good, Americans like a war we can really sink our teeth into.

    • I bet we find a cure for all kinds of cancers before we find a cure for the common cold.

      I would be willing to bet that the big pharma companies will never actually produce a cure for cancer. Treatments, for sure, but not a cure.
      The reason being economics - let's say that a person with cancer was willing to hand over every last dollar they own for a cancer cure. Big Pharma would make a reasonably large sum of money off that person, but it is a one-off sale. So to get more money, they need to get it from another poor sod with cancer. Now consider that there is not a cure, but a "treatment" for c

      • Close, but no cigar. Big Pharma actually has a very good reason to sell you a cure for cancer (as opposed to a chronic disease treatment): namely, that once cured, you go on living as a once again healthy human being. So you can once again be fully functional, earn money, and hopefully grow a lot older than you would have with chronic cancer.

        By itself, this increased wellbeing of yours is of course of no concern to the bean counters in said companies. But chances are high that you'll eventually develop some

        • Big Pharma actually has a very good reason to sell you a cure for cancer (as opposed to a chronic disease treatment): namely, that once cured, you go on living as a once again healthy human being. So you can once again be fully functional, earn money, and hopefully grow a lot older than you would have with chronic cancer.

          Once cured of your cancer though, you are no longer a revenue stream for the company. Unless you count the potential for revenue from other illnesses you might contract, but for the typical bean counter a potential revenue stream like that, which would probably be shared with other Big Pharma companies, so do little or nothing for "this" company's bottom line.
          As for the whole bean counter argument, that is exactly who runs pretty much all of the Big Pharma companies - accountants and MBAs whose only concern

    • Would have to have all of the following attributes.

      It would have to act very quickly since for most people if you do nothing it's over in 7 days.

      It would have to be very safe because for most people if you do nothing it's over in 7 days.

      It would have to be very cheap because for most people if you do nothing it's over in 7 days.

  • too late for Randy Pausch.

  • I'm sure that oversimplifying it a million times over, but it sounds cool at a reading the headlines level.

  • Assuming this result is real, why is it not published in Nature? (I do not mean to criticise, I am genuinely curious)

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