From San Francisco, at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research
Scientists in Japan have found that a protein fragment dubbed NK4 can stall the development of pancreatic cancer in mice.
The researchers isolated NK4 in 1989 by taking apart a protein called hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), which normally attaches to a receptor molecule on the surface of cells. In tumor cells, HGF's attachment can rev up metabolism and set the cell on a cancerous growth path.
In an attempt to short-circuit that effect, the researchers tested NK4 to see if it would bind to the receptor in place of HGF and also block the growth factor's cancer-triggering actions in vulnerable tissues.
In test-tube studies, it did both. To follow up, the researchers injected human pancreatic tumor cells into the pancreases of mice. Four days later, some of the mice got injections of NK4, while others received an inert saline injection.