Inducing Pancreatic Cancer Cell Death

MicroRNA 506 triggers autophagy-related cell death in pancreatic cancer cells.

A novel approach that induces autophagy in pancreatic tumor cells could help promote cancer cell death.

In a study published in Autophagy, investigators sought to identify molecules that could become the next generation of therapeutics for pancreatic cancer.

Prior research has shown that microRNA 506 (MIR506) can act as a tumor suppressor in many types of cancer, and can enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy in ovarian cancer. The investigators hypothesized that MIR506 could be a viable option for pancreatic cancer.

The investigators obtained samples from patients’ tumors during surgery and transplanted them into mice to form new pancreatic cancer tumors.

“By using an animal model to expand tumor cells recently removed from patients, we hoped to recreate more closely what actually happens in patients with pancreatic cancer rather than by using existing artificial cell lines,” said principal investigator Wei Zhang, PhD.

At first, the investigators found that the tumors had lower levels of MIR506 compared with a normal pancreas. The experimental tumor cells were treated with MIR506 to determine if it would behave in the same way it had with ovarian and other cancers.

The results of the study showed that pancreatic cancer cells treated with MIR506 inhibited both malignant cell growth and the cellular processes that cause metastasis. Additionally, for the first time investigators found that treating pancreatic tumor cells with MIR506 induced autophagy.

“The potential therapeutic value of this finding is important because we could deliver MIR506 directly to pancreatic cancer cells using technologies like nanoparticles and exosomes,” Zhang said. “Hopefully, this will provide us with a new way to fight this deadly form of cancer.”