IMAGE: On the left is a section of a pancreatic cancer patient’s primary tumor, with cancer cells (red) and CK19, a marker of proliferation (green), evident. On the right is a… view more
Credit: Fearon Lab, CSHL
Cold Spring Harbor, NY – Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have solved a mystery about how pancreatic cancer spreads following surgery in patients whose tumor is successfully removed. After surgery, patients’ typically experience a two-week period during which their immune system is depleted as a result of a surge in post-operative stress hormone (cortisol) levels. With killer T-cell levels sagging, isolated, dormant cancer cells that have already traveled to the liver and possibly other organs via the bloodstream begin to grow or metastasize.
This post-operative period, suggests CSHL Professor Douglas Fearon, “offers a window during which efforts might be made to keep cortisol levels down and T cells strong so the patient’s own immune system can kill the cancer cells that have made their way to other parts of the body but until this point have been dormant.”
Surgery is usually not an option for pancreas cancer patients, since most are diagnosed after the primary tumor has metastasized. This helps
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