Wayne State University

WSU researcher investigates potential role of a dietary agent in preventing the progression of pancreatic cancer

DETROIT– A Wayne State researcher is investigating the potential of a dietary agent in inhibiting the growth and spread of pancreatic cancer – one of the most deadly cancer types in the world.

Fazlul H. Sarkar, Ph.D., professor of pathology in the Karmanos Cancer Center at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine and resident of Plymouth Township, Mich., received more than $300,000 from the National Institutes of Health through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The award is an expansion on two research grants totaling $3 million which investigate the potential role of B-DIM, a small molecule found in leafy vegetables, in pancreatic cancer prevention and treatment.

Pancreatic cancer has one of the worst prognoses of any solid tumor type and is the fourth leading cause of all cancer deaths in the United States. The median survival time is six months after diagnosis, with only three percent of those diagnosed surviving five years. The low survival rate has been attributed to the ability of pancreatic cancer cells to grow and spread faster than most other cancers, a phenomenon which makes the disease difficult to treat.

Previous studies by Sarkar’s lab found B-DIM to be a potent inhibitor of expression of genes that are known to activate signaling pathways that lead to cancer cell growth, migration, invasion and angiogenesis and inducing apoptosis. The current study focuses on determining the mechanism by which B-DIM inhibits these pathways and testing the molecule’s effectiveness in pancreatic cancer prevention and treatment using two recently developed animal models. The results could aid in designing preventative or therapeutic approaches for saving the lives of pancreatic cancer patients.

“Our lab has shown that B-DIM can significantly inhibit the pathways that are instrumental in the progression of pancreatic cancer,” Sarkar said. “Now we want to better understand the effect of this molecule on several genes essential to cancer progression and elucidate exactly how B-DIM works. The knowledge gained from this study could significantly increase our ability to prevent and treat this very aggressive form of cancer for which there is no cure.”

In addition to his research, Sarkar was recently selected to be an associate editor of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) that publishes significant, original studies in all areas of basic, clinical, translational, epidemiological and prevention research on cancer and cancer-related biomedical studies. He was also recently chosen as one of 11 senior editors in the country for Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, another journal of the AACR.

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Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information on research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is one of 40 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Caring for nearly 6,000 new patients annually on a budget of $216 million, conducting more than 700 cancer-specific scientific investigation programs and clinical trials, Karmanos is among the nation’s best cancer centers. Through the commitment of 1,000 staff, including nearly 300 physicians and researchers on faculty at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and supported by thousands of volunteer and financial donors, Karmanos strives to prevent, detect and eradicate all forms of cancer. Its long-term partnership with the WSU School of Medicine enhances the collaboration of critical research and academics related to cancer care. Karmanos is southeastern Michigan’s most preferred hospital for cancer care according to annual surveys conducted by the National Research Corporation. For more information call 1-800-KARMANOS or visit http://www.karmanos.org.