[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 15-Jun-2010
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Contact: Dr. Ingrid Herr
i.herr@dkfz.de
062-215-637-123
University Hospital Heidelberg

New combination effective against pancreatic cancer

Substance in broccoli supports cancer therapy; researchers in Heidelberg publish in Cancer Research

The new cancer medication sorafenib looks promising. Sorafenib is used for advanced liver and kidney cancer and also appears to be effective against cancer stem cells in pancreatic cancer. The team led by Professor Dr. Ingrid Herr, Head of the Department of Molecular Oncosurgery, a group of the Department of Surgery at Heidelberg University Hospital, (Managing Director: Professor Dr. Markus W. Büchler) in cooperation with the German Cancer Research Center, tested the new substance in mice and pancreatic cancer cells. It inhibits resistant tumor stem cells and is also especially effective in combination with sulforaphane, an organic compound found in broccoli. The results has been published online in the prestigious medical journal "Cancer Research".

About 12,900 people in Germany develop pancreatic cancer every year. The disease is frequently noticed too late and very few people survive the diagnosis longer than one year. In particular, early precursor cells of the tumor known as cancer stem cells are responsible for uncontrollable growth of the cancer, metastasization to other organs, and recurrence shortly after surgery. They are extremely resistant to conventional therapy and are the focus of new treatment strategies.

Sorafenib is also effective for pancreatic cancer

In their tests on cancer cells and mice, the researchers showed that sorafenib inhibited typical properties of cancer stem cells from pancreas tumors and greatly reduced tumor growth. However, this effect lasted only for a short time and after four weeks, new colonies of cancer stem cells formed that no longer reacted to further treatment with sorafenib. "This resistance is probably related to a certain metabolic pathway, the NF-KB pathway, that is activated by sorafenib," explained Vanessa Rausch, a young researcher at the department of Surgery at Heidelberg University Hospital and first author of the article.

Broccoli reinforces the effect of sorafenib

There are naturally occurring substances that block precisely this undesired NF-KB pathway and thus make the dangerous cells vulnerable: vegetables from the cruciferous family such as broccoli and cauliflower possess a high content of sulforaphane, an anti-cancer compound. The experiments show that sulforaphane prevents the activation of the NF-KB pathway by sorafenib. The combination treatment reinforces the effect of sorafenib without causing additional side effects. The invasive potential of cancer cells was prevented – metastasis was completely blocked in cell culture experiments. "We assume that nutrition may be a suited approach to break therapy resistance of cancer stem cells and thus make tumor treatment more effective," Professor Herr suggested.

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Reference: Vanessa Rausch, Li Liu, Georgios Kallifatidis, Bernd Baumann, Jürgen Mattern, Jury Gladkich, Thomas Wirth, Peter Schemmer, Markus W. Büchler, Margot Zöller, Alexei V. Salnikov, Ingrid Herr. Synergistic activity of sorafenib and sulforaphane abolishes pancreatic cancer stem cell characteristics. Cancer Research 2010.

More Information on the Internet: www.med.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php?id=105799&L=en

Contact person:
Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Ingrid Herr
Experimental Surgery
Department of General, Visceral, and Transplant Surgery
Heidelberg University Hospital
Im Neuenheimer Feld 365
69120 Heidelberg, Germany
phone: +49 6221 / 56 37123 or 56 5147
fax: +49 6221 / 56 6119
e-mail: i.herr@dkfz.de

Heidelberg University Hospital and Medical Faculty:

Internationally recognized patient care, research, and teaching Heidelberg University Hospital is one of the largest and most prestigious medical centers in Germany. The Medical Faculty of Heidelberg University belongs to the internationally most renowned biomedical research institutions in Europe. Both institutions have the common goal of developing new therapies and implementing them rapidly for patients. With about 7,600 employees, training and qualification is an important issue. Every year, around 550,000 patients are treated on an inpatient or outpatient basis in more than 40 clinics and departments with 2,000 beds. Currently, about 3,400 future physicians are studying in Heidelberg; the reform Heidelberg Curriculum Medicinale (HeiCuMed) is one of the top medical training programs in Germany.

Requests by journalists:
Dr. Annette Tuffs
Head of Public Relations and Press Department
University Hospital of Heidelberg and
Medical Faculty of Heidelberg
Im Neuenheimer Feld 672
D-69120 Heidelberg
Germany
phone: +49 6221 / 56 45 36
fax: +49 6221 / 56 45 44
e-mail: annette.tuffs@med.uni-heidelberg.de

Selected english press releases online: http://www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de/presse



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