Chinese Herbal Extract May Help Kill Off Pancreatic Cancer Cells
Bethesda, MD — A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer can be devastating due in part to aggressive cell replication, tumor growth, quick progression and a low five-year survival rate (less than 5 percent).
GRP78, a protein that protects cells from dying, is more abundant in cancer cells and tissue than in normal organs and is thought to play a role in helping pancreatic cancer cells survive and thrive. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found triptolide, an extract of the Chinese herb thunder god vine (Tirpterygium wilfordii), suppresses GRP78, eventually leading to pancreatic cancer cell death.
For mammals to use the proteins in our bodies, a process called protein folding must occur in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of cells. If proteins are not folded fast enough, unfolded proteins begin to build up and the cell becomes stressed. Prolonged ER stress activates a cellular process called the “unfolded protein response (UPR)”. Initially, the UPR helps kick-start the cell’s protein-folding ability, allowing it to function properly again. But if the problem doesn’t resolve, the UPR triggers cell death.
GRP78 helps cells survive long enough for the UPR to kick in and correct protein-folding problems. However, GRP78 is available in higher quantities in pancreatic cancer cells, which assists the cancer cells in evading cell death, allowing them to live and multiply.
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Posted in: News Briefs | June 3, 2014
Posted in: News Briefs | April 3, 2014