UC San Diego Health Research Finds Genome Wide Analysis Reveals New Pancreatic Cancer Strategies

Apr 5, 2019 | Cancer, CRISPR, Genome, Genomics, Oncology, Protein

University of California, San Diego Health researchers discovered an unexpected role of an immune system receptor—blocking it halts human cancer cell growth and improves survival in animal models reports Scott LaFee of University of California, San Diego Health.

The remission-resistance-relapse pattern curses many a cancer patient—and the physician working furiously to make them better.  Pancreatic cancer patients are especially vulnerable to this phenomenon.  Survival rates are dire with pancreatic cancer. Why? Current multidrug chemotherapy regimens targeting pancreatic cancer typically do not eradicate all cancer cells, leaving behind drug-resistant cells that harbor aberrant stem cell properties reports Mr. LaFee. These cells can trigger tumor regrowth and metastasis.  An international research team led by UC San Diego scientists recently completed a study which was published in an online issue of Cell. The research group utilized a variety of next-generation sequencing and editing tools, such as CRISPR, to map the molecular dependencies—and vulnerabilities—of pancreatic stem cells.

Interestingly, the team uncovered a key hormone receptor known as retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptor gamma, or RORy, previously studied in inflammation and T-cell differentiation, was found to be dynamically active during pancreatic cancer progression. The researchers noted that blocking this human receptor significantly slowed patient tumor growth and improved survival in animal models.

Lead Research/Investigator

Tannishtha Reya, PhD, UC San Diego professor in the departments of Pharmacology and Medicine.