INCREDIBLE scan images have revealed how new drugs can reverse one of the deadliest cancers.
Pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed too late as people with it tend to show little to no symptoms.
Experts at Florida University in the US have now discovered a way to reverse a key process involved in the progression of the illness.
This, the medics say, is the first time researchers have been able to do this.
Writing in Cell Death Discovery, experts said they identified two small molecules that hinder precancerous cells.
They then used two drugs, developed in a lab to reverse a process called acinar ductal metaplasia (ADM), which is what happens before the cancer takes hold.
To study ADM, they looked at models with animal cells with pancreatic tissue from a healthy human.
They introduced these cells to two compounds and the ductal cells responded by changing back to so-called acinar cells.
This is key, as it’s these cells that can be prevented when they are maintained in their natural state.
In cases of pancreatic cancer, ADM occurs due to inflammation.
It’s a defense mechanism to avoid the pancreas destroying itself.
If during ADM a cell mutates, these can become cancerous and eventually – develop into cancer.
The study’s senior author and chair of the department of pharmaceutics in the UF College of Pharmacy, Â Tom Schmittgen said: “To our knowledge, this is the first time researchers have been able to pharmacologically reverse ADM.
“The findings are significant because we have now demonstrated that ADM can be reversed using drugs
“This research may lead to developing treatments for patients who are at a high risk for pancreatic cancer development.”
Pancreatic cancer is the eleventh most common type ofÂ cancerÂ in the UK and the sixth highest cause of cancer death.
The cancer has the lowest survival rate of any common cancer in the UK – with more than half of patients dying within three months of diagnosis.
The disease affects a large gland that is part of the digestive system – the pancreas is located behind the stomach and under the liver.
It has two main functions: dripping digestive enzymes into the gut to help break down food, and releasing the hormones insulin and glucagon to regulate blood sugar.
Pancreatic cancer occurs when malignant – cancerous – cells form in the tissues of the pancreas.
Five signs of the disease that could be mistaken for another condition, or niggle, include persistent stomach ache, backache, indigestion, unexplained weight loss and bowel habit changes.
Other symptoms that might be more obvious include jaundice, difficulty swallowing and vomiting.