Researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center Identify ERC33-MYC as a Target in Pancreatic Cancer

Shawn Kleitz
Igor Astsaturov, MD, PhD

PHILADELPHIA (July 6, 2016) – The protein coding gene ERC33-MYC has been identified as a target in pancreatic cancer by researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center - Temple Health.

Researchers developed a panel of new physiological models for the study of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC), the most common type of malignancy in the pancreas and found that subset of pancreatic cells in the carcinoma tumors were particularly sensitive to the reaction of the drug triptolide.

“We found that a subset of MYC-amplified carcinomas are exquisitely sensitive to the drug,” said senior study author Igor Astsaturov, MD, PhD, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase. “Our results will help develop the new class of drugs targeting oncogenic transcription in pancreatic cancer that are currently in clinical trials including a drug called Minnelide.”

Developing a panel of new physiological models, scientists expanded surgical PDAC tumor samples using short-term culture conditional reprogramming with the Rho kinase inhibitor Y-27632 and creating matched patient-derived xenografts (PDX). These were then evaluated for sensitivity to a large panel of clinical agents, where researchers found that triptolide was the most consistently effective in causing prolonged, complete regression in multiple PDX models.

The paper detailing their work was published in Clinical Cancer Research, a publication of the American Association of Cancer Research, on July 6.

“The most difficult problem pancreatic cancer patients face is that the number of active drugs is very limited. Our work cleared the deck for researchers and clinicians to demonstrate that most existing therapeutics are very limited in their activity against pancreatic cancer.” said Astsaturov. “Using a chemical screening approach, we identified ERCC3 as a new target for pancreatic cancer and demonstrated the effects are extremely strong in a molecularly defined subset of pancreatic cancers.”

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence six consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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