What is pancreatic cancer?
The pancreas is a gland located deep in the abdomen, between the stomach and the spine. Pancreatic cancer begins when abnormal cells in the pancreas grow and divide out of control and form a tumor. While it can be hereditary, the cause of pancreatic cancer is more common in people with chronic pancreatitis and are due to excessive drinking of alcohol over time. Some possible symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include pain in abdomen or back, nausea, fatigue, and indigestion.
About pancreatic cancer and treatment
Pancreatic cancer is hard to diagnose and is frequently called the “silent killer.” The aggressive pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cells often undergo epithelial to mesenchymal transition and create subregions in the tumor that evade treatments. Conventional chemotherapy plus radiation, or in advanced disease chemotherapy plus targeted drug therapy can lengthen patient survival. However, even in patients with local disease, the 5-year pancreatic cancer survival rate remains at around 40%, demonstrating that there is need for improved conventional and immune therapies for all pancreatic cancer patients.
In this study, dozens of biomarkers have been used to probe tumor heterogeneity in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) tissue. We rely on the published finding that hypoxia gene expression is consistent in PDAC, regardless of tumor location, whether primary tumor or metastasis. With analysis of Cell DIVE multiplex images, dozens of biomarkers can be used to computationally reduce tumor heterogeneity, and to spatially define cells in the microenvironment within hypoxic and normoxic regions of PDAC, and in normal pancreas. Taken together, multiplexed whole slide imaging and analysis enables spatially resolved whole tissue analysis of the tumor microenvironment, including new insights into spatial biology in the hypoxic PDAC environment.
Characterizing the tumor microenvironment in aggressive regions of the tumor can help to elucidate new mechanisms that contribute to poor patient outcomes and may lead to the discovery of novel interventions to improve future therapeutic success in the treatment of PDAC.