Study Discovers How Pancreatic Cancer Spreads to the Liver

Thanks to funding from CCBF, Dr. Lyden and his team discovered the mechanism in which pancreatic cancer spreads to the liver. Metastasis to the liver is the lethal event that occurs in the most common form of the disease. Patients with pancreatic cancer usually do not show any symptoms and therefore are not diagnosed until the cancer has advanced and there are limited available treatments. As such, pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer - with a 6% survival rate five years after diagnosis and a median survival rate of six months.

This groundbreaking article was published in the world-famous Nature Cell Biology and was featured on the cover of the June 2015 edition. Dr. Lyden and his team discovered macrophage migration inhibition factor in pancreatic cancer exosomes, also known as MIF. This protein promotes tumor growth in the liver’s immune cells, or Kupffer cells. Elimination of MIF in mouse models prevented the creation of a microenvironment that supported tumor growth in the liver. Dr. Lyden says, “Disrupting just one part of the process at any point of the circuit decreased metastasis, a discovery that could lead to the development of multi-targeted therapies that could prolong patients’ lives.” Researchers believe MIF can be used to monitor progression from pancreatitis to pancreatic cancer. Dr. Lyden and his team are currently testing whether MIF levels can accurately estimate risk of pancreatic cancer in patients with nonmalignant pancreatic lesions. This process could allow early treatment of the cancer and prevent progression of the disease.