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Immunotherapy hope for aggressive pancreatic cancer

Thursday September 3rd 2020

An aggressive form of pancreatic cancer could respond to immunotherapy, according to a study published today.

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, UK, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, with colleagues at the University and Hospital Trust of Verona, Italy, used artificial intelligence (AI) and genetic analysis to conclude that it could be suitable for pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer.

In what is the most extensive analysis of the immune landscape of these tumours yet, they studied 207 tumour samples from patients with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours for the levels of 600 immune-related genes.

They compared four separate forms of the disease and found that samples of metastases-like primary tumours had changes in activity of 74 immune-related genes, compared with changes in 12 immune system genes in insulinoma-like tumours.

In the study, which is published in Gut, 83% of aggressive, metastatic-like tumours were found to contain particularly high levels of the TLR3 gene, which mimics the infection response triggered by viruses, drawing immune cells to the tumour.

The research team believe that by hijacking the damage response through TLR3, cancer cells can escape from the immune system, which results in the tumour’s ability to grow and evolve.

Dr Anguraj Sadanandam, team leader in systems and precision cancer medicine at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Our new study offers an important basis from which to start developing new treatment strategies for a rare form of cancer, which starts in the hormone-producing cells of the pancreas. Our findings could help to pick out those patients most likely to benefit from immunotherapy.”

Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, added: “Pancreatic cancers have some of the poorest survival rates – so it’s hugely encouraging to see such an extensive study of the immune landscape of a rare form of pancreatic cancer, looking at the underlying biology to inform the best way forward in treating the disease.”

The researchers hope their results will lead to clinical trials to test the benefit of immunotherapies, either alone or in combination with other treatments, for patients with the metastatic-like form of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours.

Gut 3 September 2020

Tags: Cancer | Europe | Internal Medicine | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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