PEAK1 Enzyme Sees Into Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer early biomarker identified

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) No signs or symptoms. No screening tests. No effective treatment. These are the qualities of pancreatic cancer that make it so devilish. The discovery of an early biomarker may change the whole outlook for cancer of the pancreas.

Medical scientists have identified a biomarker (indicates presence of disease) which is seen in high levels in the early stages of pancreatic cancer.

This discovery may lead to a way to screen for this disease and the development of new drugs that could block the enzyme to treat  this cancer.

"Consider enrolling in a clinical trial to further research."

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center detected this enzyme.

‘“We found that a kinase called PEAK1 is turned on very early in pancreatic cancer,” said first author Jonathan Kelber, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the UCSD Department of Pathology and Moores Cancer Center.

“This protein was clearly detected in biopsies of malignant tumors from human patients – at the gene and the protein levels – as well as in mouse models,” Kelber said.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, or PDAC, is the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related death, and the outlook for newly diagnosed patients is not optimistic.

That's why finding something that could alert doctors to the presence of PDAC is so desperately needed.

PEAK1 is sort of like an on-off switch to speed up or slow down various chemical reactions and cell functions. That it was seen in human PDAC, and found to play a role in cell multiplication makes the enzyme an important possible biomarker and drug target.

Researchers learned that PEAK1 isn't just present in pancreatic cancer, but it is also involved in the growth and spread of this malignancy.

“We found that if you knock it out in PDAC cells, they form significantly smaller tumors in preclinical mouse models and fail to metastasize efficiently,” Kelber said.

Richard Klemke, PhD, UCSD professor of pathology, led the study of a large online database of gene expression profiles. The findings were confirmed in human biopsies and in mouse models.

When researchers blocked PEAK1 activity in PDAC cells, the tumor cells responded better to existing chemotherapies.

Study authors hope these findings will open new doors to bring a PEAK1 blocker to the clinic.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and published May 15 in Cancer Research

Conflict of interest disclosures were not publicly available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 14, 2012
Last Updated:
July 9, 2012