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The importance of fat in the aggressiveness of pancreatic cancer

Researcher
Dr Patricia Sancho
Project period
Jul 2019 - Jul 2022
Country
Research Institute
Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Aragón
Cancer types
Pancreatic cancer
Dr Patricia Sancho

Aim of the research

Dr Patricia Sancho aims to find out how cancer stem cells use and store fat to help them spread and form tumours in other parts of the body.

Meet the scientist

Patricia is a group leader at the Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Aragón in Spain. Her expertise in cancer stem cells and how they are able to cope with shifting energy demands is opening up new areas for treating the spread of cancer. In her spare time, Patricia loves to read a good crime novel.

More about the research project

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.

Co-funder

This project was made possible thanks to a co-funding partnership with the Spanish Association Against Cancer Scientific Foundation (AECC FC).

Great scientists and projects have previously been funded by Worldwide Cancer Research, so for me, it´s like being awarded with a certificate of excellence in research. The charity also allows me to connect with the supporters, real people with real stories, making my research much more meaningful.
Dr Patricia Sancho