Advertisement

Study Shows Targeting Cancer Cell ‘Cloak’ Could Benefit Drug Delivery

Advertisement

Key Points

  • Among patients with low hyaluronan in their primary tumors, median survival was 24.3 months, compared to only 9.3 months for patients with high levels of hyaluronan.
  • For patients with low collagen in their primary tumors, median survival was 14.6 months, compared to only 6.4 months for patients with high levels of collagen.

Cancer cells can cloak themselves within tumors by hiding behind a dense layer of cellular stroma. According to a new study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), drugs that target and strip away the stroma would pave the way for other drugs to reach the cancerous cells within the tumor. Targeting stroma could potentially extend patient survival even among those with advanced-stage cancer that has spread to other organs. Whatcott et al focused on the role of stroma in pancreatic cancer and published their findings in Clinical Cancer Research.

Role of Stroma in Disease

The accumulation of stroma—the supporting connective tissue that includes hyaluronan and several types of collagen—prevents anticancer drugs from reaching and destroying cancer cells, not only in the primary tumors in the pancreas, but also in metastatic lesions. Researchers found metastatic lesions can have the same high level of stromal content as the primary tumors in the pancreas. These high levels of stroma correlate with poor patient survival.

"If we can target and reduce stroma, new cancer therapeutics could prove more effective, and patients could experience longer survival," said Haiyong Han, PhD, Associate Professor in the Clinical Translational Research Division, Head of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Unit, and the study's senior author.

The study examined the stromal content of primary tumors and metastatic lesions from 50 patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, which represents about 95% of all pancreatic cancer.

Study Findings

Among patients with low hyaluronan in their primary tumors, median survival was 24.3 months, compared to only 9.3 months for patients with high levels of hyaluronan. Likewise, among patients with low collagen in their primary tumors, median survival was 14.6 months, compared to only 6.4 months for patients with high levels of collagen.

By targeting and eliminating the stroma surrounding the cancer cells, anticancer drugs, as well as immunologic approaches, should be more effective not only within the pancreas, but throughout the body where the cancer may have spread.

"We are hopeful that in the future, new therapeutics that target stroma will have a significant benefit for our patients and lead to better outcomes," said Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD, FACP, TGen's Distinguished Professor and Physician-in-Chief.

Clifford J. Whatcott, PhD, is the corresponding author for the Clinical Cancer Research article.

This study was supported by the National Cancer Institute, Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C), the Katz Family Foundation, and the National Foundation for Cancer Research. 

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


Advertisement

Advertisement



Advertisement