Pancreatic cancer loses viral defences in cross-talk with fibroblasts (Article)

April 23 / 2015

Ottawa, ON – Ottawa researchers have unlocked a way to make pancreatic cancer cells more vulnerable to cancer-killing viruses, known as oncolytic viruses. Outlined in a paper published this week by Nature Medicine, the scientists have discovered how they can exploit the communication, or cross-talk, between pancreatic cancer and a specific cell type that supports the tumour. They found that this cross-talk weakens the ability of both cell types to fight off cancer-fighting viruses.

The cross-talking cells in question are called cancer-associated fibroblasts (or CAFs), which are genetically normal cells that the cancer has conditioned to support the tumour. This conditioning by the tumour makes the CAFs susceptible to virus infection, compared to their normal counterparts. In turn, the CAFs secrete a protein called FGF2 that makes the tumours more susceptible to virus infection.

Pancreatic cancer is among the deadliest of cancers, killing approximately 4,400 Canadians every year. Only 6 per cent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer live longer than five years — a survival rate that has not improved in the last 40 years.

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