Some gut fungi may promote the development of pancreatic cancer, a new study finds.
In a recent paper, the researchers describe how they investigated gut fungi in mice and humans with pancreatic cancer.
The team found that certain species of fungus in the gut can enter the pancreatic duct, which is the tube that the pancreas uses to deliver digestive juices to the intestines.
The microorganisms reach the pancreas by traveling through the duct in the opposite direction to the digestive fluids.
The new study shows that when pancreatic cancer is present, the fungal populations of pancreatic tumors and the gut differ from those of healthy mice and humans.
The researchers also found that giving mice with the most common form of pancreatic cancer a strong antifungal drug could reduce their tumors by up to 40%.
"While past studies from our group have shown that bacteria travel from the gut to the pancreas," says co-senior study author Dr. George Miller, MD, of the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine in New York CIty, "our new study is the first to confirm that fungi, too, make that trip and that related fungal population changes promote tumor inception and growth."
The pancreas and cancer
The pancreas is a large, thin organ that sits behind the stomach, deep inside the abdomen. It produces fluids that help digest food and control blood sugar.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pancreatic cancer is among the in both males and females in the United States, where incidence rates have risen by nearly 1.2% per year over the last decade.
According to estimates by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in the United States will find out that they have pancreatic cancer in 2019, while 45,750 will die of the disease. These figures represent 3.2% of all new cancer cases and 7.5% of all cancer deaths, respectively.
The organ's deep location inside the body means that cancer of the pancreas is difficult to spot in its early stages. For many people, the cancer has already advanced when they receive a diagnosis, making it harder to treat.
The NCI also estimate that during 2009–2015, only of people with pancreatic cancer survived 5 years or more following their diagnosis.
There are different types of pancreatic cancer, depending on the tissue type and location of origin. The most common of these — and the subject of the study — is pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), which accounts for of pancreatic cancers.