Deleting a gene called ATDC in mice eliminated pancreatic adenocarcinoma – one of the most aggressive pancreatic cancers.
Senior study author Dr Diane Simeone, director of the Pancreatic Cancer Centre at New York University's Langone Health, said that her team had thought the deletion of ATDC would slow cancer growth, but would not halt its development.
'We found that deleting the ATDC gene in pancreatic cells resulted in one of the most profound blocks of tumour formation ever observed in a well-known mice model engineered to develop pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, or PDA, which faithfully mimics the human disease,' she said.
Mutations in the gene KRAS are present in over 90 percent of aggressive PDAs. In this study, 100 percent of mice with a mutated KRAS gene and an active ATDC gene developed cancer. However, none of the mice with a mutated KRAS gene but the ATDC gene removed developed cancer.
In PDA, cells within the pancreas that secrete digestive enzymes into the small intestine, known as acinar cells, can revert to a primitive stem-cell-like state to aid injury and inflammation. If there are mutations in certain genes, such as KRAS, these cells can become cancerous. In the mice without the ATDC gene, the acinar cells' transformation into cancerous cells was cut short early on in the process, the researchers found.
PDA is one of the worst-prognosis malignant cancers in humans. It is set to become the second-leading cause of cancer death in the USA by 2030.
The research was published in the journal Genes and Development.