Blocking a digestive hormone associated with obesity may help prevent the spread of pancreatic tumors to other areas in the body, according to a study.
A high-fat diet promotes the growth of pancreatic cancer independent of obesity because of the interaction between dietary fat and cholecystokinin (CCK) — digestive hormone released by the small intestine. The hormone secretion gets further triggered by the fatty diet.
Previous research has shown that obesity and high-fat diets both together and independently increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
"Most patients with advanced pancreatic cancer succumb to the disease due to metastases; therefore a compound that blocks metastases, even when the primary tumour size is large, may have clinical significance," said the researchers including Jill Smith from the Georgetown University in the US.
"CCK [receptor] blockade may play a role in the treatment and prevention of pancreatic cancer," they added.
For the study, published in American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, the team fed one group of mice with high-fat diet while the other half were given a normal diet. Then some of them were treated with proglumide — a medication that blocks CCK.
The results showed that mice treated with proglumide had less tumor growth than the untreated mice, even when fed a high-fat diet.
Further, they found that among high-fat diet-fed mice lacking CCK receptors did not show any tumor growth, suggesting that without receptors to bind to, increased CCK from dietary fat is unable to promote cancer.
The team explained that pancreatic growth and regeneration occurs through interaction of CCK with CCK receptors, proteins that bind to CCK to produce a physiological reaction.
Proglumide treatment also protected the mice from the development of excessive fibrous tissue – fibrosis – that can be associated with cancer metastases and resistance to chemotherapy, the researchers said.>