In the everyday life of a cell, old ones die, new ones take their place, and everything hums along. That is until you have cancer, and then the body’s balance is out of whack. This is the case with pancreatic cancer. Researchers at the University of Utah are looking at how the pancreas performs the cell renewal process and focal adhesion kinase (FAK).

The pancreas uses a process of extrusion, that pushes out old cells which then move away into other areas. With Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma, and some other aggressive types of cancer, the old cells get stuck in the lining of the vessels, called the epithelia, and form a mass.

Researchers believe this is because a link is broken in the normal chain of signaling from FAK to S1P2 lipid that helps the old cells travel. In Zebra fish, an S1P2 deficiency caused cells to invade nearby tissue. Dead cells caused a break in the normal chain, interrupting the protective role of the epithelia and caused inflammation. When treated with FAK, cell masses went away and epithelial protection was restored.
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