News from DCEXS-UPF
Inflammation is a defensive response of the body to aggression, but when it persists it can be harmful and can even predispose the subject to cancer. Hence, it is crucial to understand fully the relationship between inflammation and cancer. A group of researchers at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), lead by Francisco Real, full professor at the Department of Health and Experimental Sciencies (DCEXS) at UPF, has now discovered an unexpected link between the two processes: in the pancreas, one of the genes that increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer also controls inflammation. This finding offers “a major conceptual change”, explains Real, head of the Epithelial Carcinogenesis Group at the CNIO, which, as well as helping to understand the origin of tumours, suggests new strategies to improve the prevention of pancreatic cancer.
The change in paradigm brought about by this result is related with the concept of inflammation itself. Inflammation is generally considered a defensive response organised by the cell starting from zero when there is an external aggression, but CNIO researchers see it now as “a defensive mechanism that the cell keeps suppressed, unless it is required”, Real states. The new findings show the specific control mechanisms that suppress inflammation in normal pancreas.
The researchers think that detecting initial states of inflammation would also provide useful ‘warning signs’. But for this, they need to be able to detect those signs using a simple blood test: “The pancreas cannot be biopsied, as other more easily accessible tissues can. We are going to try and detect this pre-inflammatory state in the blood, first in mice and then in humans”, says Real.
Isidoro Cobo, et.al. Transcriptional regulation by NR5A2 links differentiation and inflammation in the pancreas. Nature 2018