A research team at Columbia University has made an exciting discovery in this area, finding that a compound currently under development for a rare kidney stone disease can starve pancreatic cancer cells of a key amino acid they depend on, a technique that proved to stop tumor growth in mice.
"We're very encouraged by these results," says Kenneth P. Olive, PhD, senior author of the study. "Pancreatic cancer is a uniquely lethal disease, with an average survival rate of just six months after diagnosis. We're in desperate need of new treatments."
One of the ways pancreatic cancer causes harm is by driving the production of oxidants, which can be fatal to healthy cells in the body but leave the tumor cells intact. The reason for this is an amino acid called cysteine, which the tumor cells import in huge quantities and allows them to produce molecules that neutralize the toxic effect of the oxidants.