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CAMBRIDGE, MA — Patients with pancreatic cancer usually experience significant weight loss, which can begin very early in the disease. A new study from MIT and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute offers insight into how this happens, and suggests that the weight loss may not necessarily affect patients’ survival.

In a study of mice, the researchers found that weight loss occurs due to a reduction in key pancreatic enzymes that normally help digest food. When the researchers treated these mice with replacement enzymes, they were surprised to find that while the mice did regain weight, they did not survive any longer than untreated mice.

Pancreatic cancer patients are sometimes given replacement enzymes to help them gain weight, but the new findings suggest that more study is needed to determine whether that actually benefits patients, says Matt Vander Heiden, an associate professor of biology at MIT and a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

“We have to be very careful not to draw medical advice from a mouse study and apply it to humans,” Vander Heiden says. “The study does raise the question of whether enzyme replacement is good or bad for patients, which needs to be studied in

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