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More research needed: Mortality rates from pancreatic cancer are increasing dramatically


World Pancreas Day: With research against pancreatic cancer
There are more and more cases of pancreatic cancer in Germany. This type of cancer is often symptom-free for a long time and is therefore often discovered too late. The mortality rates are very high. On the occasion of World Pancreas Day on November 17, experts point out the need for more research.

Almost all sufferers die from this tumor
Cancer of the pancreas is usually extremely aggressive. According to figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), around 16,700 people nationwide contracted pancreatic cancer in 2011. Due to the unfavorable prognosis, almost as many people died of this tumor. Since pancreatic cancer is usually asymptomatic at the beginning, it is often diagnosed late. If the classic symptoms such as abdominal pain, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting occur, in many cases treatment success can no longer be achieved.

Mortality rates in pancreatic cancer are increasing
While advances in prevention, early detection and therapy have reduced mortality rates for most other types of cancer, they are rising steadily in pancreatic cancer, reports the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in a communication on World Pancreas Day on November 17.

"Pancreatic cancer causes no symptoms for a long time and is therefore only discovered late. The tumors spread metastases very early on and, to make matters worse, develop resistance to chemotherapy very quickly, ”said DKFZ CEO Michael Baumann.

“That is why scientists at the DKFZ are looking intensively for the molecular causes for the particular malignancy of this type of cancer. In this way, they want to identify points of attack through which this dangerous cancer can be combated more effectively in the future. Our colleagues have been able to achieve promising results in this area recently, ”said Baumann.

Tumor growth slowed and metastasis slowed down
For example, DKFZ researchers recently discovered that a receptor for the neurotransmitter dopamine promotes the growth and spread of pancreatic cancer. Medications for schizophrenia, which bind to this receptor and block its function, therefore slowed tumor growth in mice and slowed metastasis. Now it is to be investigated as quickly as possible whether these drugs also have a favorable effect on the course of the disease in patients with pancreatic cancer.

In addition, DKFZ experts found that the ability to metastasize in pancreatic cells is often already developed before a cell has even turned into a cancer cell. Pancreatic cancer cells are so to speak malignant from the beginning.

Why some tumors are resistant to treatment
Furthermore, the DKFZ and the Heidelberg stem cell institute HI-STEM discovered why some tumors of the pancreas are so resistant to treatment. As the scientists reported in the journal "Nature Medicine", a specific enzyme is responsible for the resistance of the tumors.

In addition, the DKFZ is starting a clinical study with the Heidelberg University Hospital at the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) to test whether advanced pancreatic cancer can be treated with viruses.

Better therapy options through earlier diagnosis
However, new knowledge has also been gained at other research institutions in recent years. Scientists from Queen Mary University in London reported last year that pancreatic cancer could also be diagnosed with a urine test in the future. Swedish researchers had previously reported that they had developed new early detection for this cancer.

US experts have found that bacteria can help diagnose pancreatic cancer. All the insights that lead to early detection of the disease can improve therapy options.

The treatment should best be individually tailored to the patient, as this improves the chances of a cure for pancreatic cancer. (ad)

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