Pancreatic cancer is particularly aggressive, difficult to diagnose, and often unresponsive to treatment. However, scientists at the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (Manchester University) have found what could be a potential weakness, and one day, a cure.

The CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, Maggie Blanks, said “These findings will certainly be of great interest to the pancreatic cancer research community and we’d be keen to see how this approach progresses. Finding weaknesses that can be exploited in this highly aggressive cancer is paramount, so we want to congratulate the Manchester team for their discovery.”

Every cell uses mitochondria and glycolysis by ATP to generate cell energy, in about a 90/10 ratio, respectively. However, according to the research, pancreatic cancer cells seem to use considerably more glycolysis than normal cells to maintain low calcium levels. Studies found that by blocking glycolysis, this ultimately disrupts the calcium pump (found on the plasma membrane) and causes the cancer cells to die from a “toxic calcium overload.”

Dr. Jason Bruce leads the research for Physiological Systems and Disease Research Group and had this to say about the study:

“Clearly a radical new approach to treatment is urgently required. We wanted to understand how the switch in energy supply in cancer cells might help them survive. It looks like glycolysis is the key process in providing ATP fuel for the calcium pump in pancreatic cancer cells. Although an important strategy for cell survival, it may also be their major weakness. Designing drugs to cut off this supply to the calcium pumps might be an effective strategy for selectively killing cancer cells while sparing normal cells within the pancreas.”

New prescriptions and treatments can take years to effectively develop, however. There are still more studies to be conducted and other methods to be researched. Even after fully understanding the problem, and knowing how to disrupt the glycolysis ATP process, it can still take time to effectively develop a pharmaceutical to safely eliminate malignant cancer cells.

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