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New Research at Mayo Clinic Describes Molecular Steps Leading to Pancreatic Cancer

We know that pancreatic cancer is so dangerous because symptoms do not usually occur until advanced stages. But what if we knew the steps that lead to the formation of precancerous lesions at the molecular level? Maybe cancer could be identified earlier. Better yet, maybe the development of the lesions could be stopped.

New research at the Mayo Clinic funded by the National Institutes of Health has led to a detailed outline of the steps that lead acinar cells in the pancreas to become precancerous lesions. Certain proteins in acinar cells can attract inflammatory immune cells which in turn cause the acinar cells to morph and form lesions. The research team even suggests it’s possible to explore preventive strategies based on their findings. The study was published by the journal Cancer Discovery.

A Cellvizio Optical Biopsy procedure shows cells at the microscopic level, in real time.
A Cellvizio Optical Biopsy procedure shows cells at the microscopic level, in real time.

“Pancreatic cancer develops from these lesions, so if we understand how these lesions come about, we may be able to stop the cancer train altogether,” said lead investigator Dr. Peter Storz.
Dr. Storz and his team were able to halt the formation of precancerous lesions in mice in two different ways – either by depleting the inflammatory immune cells or using an antibody to block their attraction to the pancreas in the first place.
It all comes down to improving our understanding of the microenvironment these cells live within, and Optical Biopsy with Cellvizio is already helping doctors examine tissue at the microscopic level during an endoscopic procedure. By enabling the visualization of a cyst wall at the cellular level, physicians can potentially see cancer faster with our advanced imaging technology, and studies like this help to confirm what we should be looking for.
We will continue to provide updates on exciting new research that has the potential to help us improve our understanding of how pancreatic cancer develops.