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The importance of fat in the aggressiveness of pancreatic cancer

  • Researcher: Dr Patricia Sancho
  • Institution: Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Aragón
  • Award Amount: £162,485 for 3 years from 1st July 2019
  • Cancer Type: Pancreatic Cancer
The importance of fat in the aggressiveness of pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the most common form of pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, due to a lack of therapies, late detection and its aggressive nature, most patients do not survive the first twelve months after diagnosis.

Dr Patricia Sancho and her team at the Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Aragón in Zaragoza, Spain, are trying to uncover the biological mechanisms that make PDAC such an aggressive cancer. Cancer stem cells – cells that can generate new tumours - are essential for the growth and spread of pancreatic cancer. Cancer stem cells can obtain their energy from a wide range of biological molecules, including fats. Because they are able to store fat for later use, cancer stem cells can thrive in nutrient-sparse conditions, such as the immediate tumour environment.

Dr Sancho and her team are now investigating how the ability of cancer stem cells to store and use fat as an energy source enables them to spread throughout the body. In particular, they want to find out how cancer stem cells break free from the original tumour and spread through the blood stream to other parts of the body when nutrients in the original tumour become sparse. Understanding how cancer cells use fat to survive, thrive and spread is an essential step towards identifying new potential drug targets that could be used to develop much needed therapies for this very aggressive form of cancer.

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