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Researchers: Zinc Fights Pancreatic Cancer

Friday, 02 Sep 2011 07:58 AM


The mineral zinc may be a new weapon in the battle against pancreatic cancer, according to a report in Cancer Biology & Therapy. Scientists at the University of Maryland found that zinc appears to suppress tumors of the most common form of the deadly cancer.

“The report establishes for the first time, with direct measurements in human pancreatic tissue, that the level of zinc is markedly lower in pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells as compared with normal pancreas cells,” said lead author Leslie Costello, Ph.D. in a press release.

Scientists found a decrease in zinc levels in cells at the beginning stages of the cancer as well as at its advanced stages.

“The fundamental implication is that we now know something about the development of pancreatic cancer that was not previously known,” continues Costello. “It provides a potential approach to treatment, that is, to find a way to get zinc back into the malignant cells, which will kill them,” he said.

In addition, the scientists uncovered an important genetic factor that may eventually play a role in developing an early diagnostic tool. Malignant cells shut down a zinc transporting molecule called ZIP3, which is responsible for guiding zinc through the cell membrane and into the cells. In essence, the researchers have discovered an early genetic/metabolic change in the development of pancreatic cancer. Cancer researchers previously did not know that the ZIP3 gene expression is lost in malignant pancreatic cells, resulting in lower zinc.
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According to the National Cancer Institute, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). There are about 42,000 new cases annually in the United States, and the NCI estimates that 35,000 will die.

Pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage because the cancer often spreads before the symptoms develop. Current treatments may extend survival slightly or relieve symptoms in some patients, but they rarely produce a cure.

Pancreatic adenocarcinoma accounts for the vast majority of pancreatic cancer cases. Tumors arise from epithelial cells that line pancreatic ducts.

Costello and Renty Franklin, Ph.D. have collaborated for many years in the study of the relationship of zinc with prostate cancer, which led them to study pancreatic cancer as well. They began studying the link between zinc and pancreatic cancer because substantial evidence had emerged that zinc may be a tumor suppressor in the development and progression of some cancers.

“We wondered why malignant cells show a lost ability to take up zinc,” said Franklin. “Certain levels of zinc are toxic to the malignant cell.” The researchers say their work implies that it may be possible to develop a chemotherapeutic agent for pancreatic cancer that will get zinc back into and kill the malignant cells.








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The mineral zinc may be a new weapon in the battle against pancreatic cancer, according to a report in Cancer Biology & Therapy. Scientists at the University of Maryland found that zinc appears to suppress tumors of the most common form of the deadly cancer.
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2011-58-02
Friday, 02 Sep 2011 07:58 AM
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