In a study involving alternative therapy, researchers including SK Batra and colleagues from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center studied the effects on pancreatic cancer cells of ocimum sanctum, a traditional medicine from India known more commonly as “Holy Basil,” that has been in use for thousands of years.
They found that extract from the leaves of ocimum sanctum appeared to inhibit mechanisms that control the spread and invasion of pancreatic cancer cells. And also, in a separate in-vitro experiment with mice, that the extract appeared to potentiate death of pancreatic cancer cells in tumors.
This is a pre-clinical study, but it is of interest in the sense that Holy Basil – known to have medicinal properties for thousands of years – could become a source for new compounds in the therapy of pancreatic cancer. Further research required.
Dale O’Brien, MD
Japanese researchers including Yoshida and colleagues from the Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine used a specific lab method (gas chromatography mass spectrometry) on certain serum metabolite levels in patients with known pancreatitis, diagnosed pancreatic cancer (adenocarcinoma), and healthy subject volunteers.
The results of this study were published this month in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research (and co-sponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology).
In comparing the test results of the serum of the 43 patients with pancreatic cancer versus those of the 42 healthy subjects, the spectrometry model showed both high sensitivity (86%) and high specificity (88.1%). When additionally looking at the patients with pancreatitis, the model was able to significantly differentiate between pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis.
This is an early study, but one of great promise. The quest for determining accurate non-invasive methods for the earlier diagnosis (and even screening) for pancreatic cancer is paramount. These results move this aim closer. The methods outlined in this research are important enough to require additional study and refinement.
Dale O’Brien, MD
Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs) are not fully understood, but are felt by many to be precursor tumors to full blown pancreatic cancer (adenocarcinoma).
Thus, an interesting study was recently published by Italian researchers including Giovannetti and colleagues from the University of Pisa in the Annals of Oncology (the official journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology – ESMO) which examined the possible role of microRNAs as biomarkers for IPMNs.
The researchers examined and compared miR-21, miR-101, and miR-155 levels in 86 biopsy specimens of IPMNs. They additionally looked at relationships between these levels and overall survival and disease-free survival of the patients with these IPMNs.
The one microRNA that appeared to offer prognostic value as a biomarker in terms of IPMN risk was miR-21. The authors suggest that these results (especially involving miR-21) be further examined in future studies.
Further research into the role of miRNAs, these small 22-nucleotide non-coding RNA molecules, as possible biomarkers for pancreatic cancer should be of great interest.
Dale O’Brien, MD