Micrographs of normal pancreas, pancreatic int...

Micrographs of normal pancreas, pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (precursors to pancreatic carcinoma) and pancreatic carcinoma. H&E stain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The research by Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and published in the journal Pancreas promises a possible way to convert pancreatic cancer cells back to normal cells.  This is accomplished by introducing a protein named E47 that causes the DNA to instruct the cancerous cells to convert back to normal cells.

Sound like science-fiction?  Ten years ago to most of us it was but in ten years from now it will likely be commonplace.  People will hear with horror that the previous treatment involved injecting chemotherapy which kills good and bad cells and creates painful side effects.

“For the first time, we have shown that over-expression of a single gene can reduce the tumor-promoting potential of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells and reprogram them toward their original cell type,” says Pamela Itkin-Ansari, adjunct professor at Sanford-Burnham and lead author of the study. “Thus, pancreatic cancer cells retain a genetic memory which we hope to exploit.”

These results have only been confirmed with mice but the researchers hope to conduct human tests in the near future.

This is the type of progress that will be made when people demand that we use the most effective tools to diagnose and treat illnesses.  This type of treatment will likely be much less expensive.  It will cost the industry grown up around cancer treatment literally billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs.

As these treatments modalities move forward, we are likely to see the cancer treatment establishment  react strongly against this “unproven” treatment.  Many drug companies will be forced to develop new drugs and procedures that will replace the billions of dollars lost by people no longer needing the cancer drugs.  Many oncologists will have to find other ways of making money.

No one likes to see their livelihood be threatened.  It is understandable.  They have mortgages to pay and children to educate.  The decline in their stock price will affect millions.  However, money not being spent on health care can be spent in other areas and more and more jobs will be created.

Just like buggy whip manufacturers fought the automobile, the medical establishment will resist advances that promise to make diagnosis and treatment not only much more effective but also much less expensive.