Potential Role for Vitamin A in Pancreatic Cancer

According to a study out of the Imperial College at London and published in Nature Communications, vitamin A may have a role to play in tackling the commonest form of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common type of malignancy of the pancreas, is extremely aggressive and very difficult to treat. Many scientists are currently investigating the genetic mutations and biochemical signaling pathways that enable cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body.

The researchers have taken a different approach to how they are using cells in the lab. They have investigated how mechanical changes in a group of cells residing in the immediate environment of the tumor, called stellate cells, affect the progression of PDAC.

“The survival rate of pancreatic cancer has remained relatively unchanged during the last 40 years, despite advances in conventional therapies targeting cancer cells,” said one researcher. “We’ve changed the focus from cancer cells to the cells that surround the tumor. We’ve combined traditional approaches to cancer biology with understanding the mechanics behind the progression of tumors. This could meet a pressing unmet clinical need in the UK and worldwide.”

One cause of PDAC is that as it progresses, the stellate cells are activated from their dormant state and lose their vitamin A content. These activated cells enhancing the proliferative effects of the tumor, as well as aiding the preventing cancer-fighting drugs from making their way in.

The breakthrough in the research is that they observed a process involving vitamin A that could help switch off these pancreatic stellate cells.

While the researchers caution this was an experiment done in a lab and not conducted on humans, it could be a big breakthrough for helping scientists tackle the disease.


raziRazi Berry, Founder and Publisher of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review (ndnr.com) and NaturalPath (thenatpath.com), has spent the last decade as a natural medicine advocate and marketing whiz. She has galvanized and supported the naturopathic community, bringing a higher quality of healthcare to millions of North Americans through her publications. A self-proclaimed health-food junkie and mother of two; she loves all things nature, is obsessed with organic gardening, growing fruit trees (not easy in Phoenix), laughing until she snorts, and homeschooling. She is a little bit crunchy and yes, that is her real name.

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