Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of the disease, resistant to many treatments. Now, scientists have identified how the tumors protect themselves so effectively – and more importantly, uncovered a way to potentially bust through those defenses.
Ranking among the leading causes of cancer-related deaths, the prognosis for pancreatic cancer is devastating, with less than 10 percent of patients surviving beyond five years after diagnosis. One factor that makes pancreatic cancer so tough is that it builds a cocoon of scar-like tissue called cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), which prevents chemotherapy and other treatments getting in.
In the new study, scientists from the University of Texas Southwestern identified another way that this barrier works to protect the cancer. Some of the CAFs have a particularly nasty trick up their sleeves – they present antigens on their surface, which disarm immune cells that come to attack the tumor. These antigens convert T cells into regulatory T cells (Tregs), which in turn shut down further immune responses in the area.