Can This Cancer Be Blamed On Fat Cells?

Pancreatic cancer risks increased with low levels of adiponectin

(RxWiki News) How and why pancreatic cancer develops has never been clearly understood. New clues are emerging, though, that could help diagnose and treat this cancer.

Low levels of a protein that comes from fat cells may be linked to pancreatic cancer. The protein is called adiponectin and it has lots of different functions.

Monitoring for low levels of adiponectin could help diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier, and also lead to better ways to treat it.

"Slim down if you need to."

Ying Bao, MD, ScD, of the Channing Laboratory at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and colleagues, consolidated data from five different studies to see if adiponectin levels were linked to pancreatic cancer.

Adiponectin manages how the body responds to insulin. It also directs the metabolism of fats and glucose (blood sugar). In addition, the protein also helps reduce inflammation in blood vessels.

Researchers looked at information from about 1,500 people – 468 people with pancreatic cancer and 1,080 healthy controls. The patients were matched with the healthy individuals by age, smoking status, when blood was drawn and whether or not the person had been fasting prior to the blood test.

"Our data provide additional evidence for a biological link between obesity, insulin resistance and pancreatic cancer risk and also suggest an independent role of adiponectin in the development of pancreatic cancer," the authors write.

So what’s the significance of all this? In an accompanying editorial, Roswell Park Cancer Center researchers, Jianliang Zhang, PhD, associate professor of oncology, and Steven N. Hochwald, MD, of the Department of Surgical Oncology, explained. "Early detection by the assessment of adiponectin has the potential to improve the survival rates of pancreatic tumor patients," they wrote.

"It is also inviting to speculate that therapeutic interventions to increase the levels of circulating adiponectin may prevent the development of pancreatic cancer and/or improve the survival of patients with malignancy," the editorial authors concluded.

This research, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health, was published December 14 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. None of the authors reported conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 16, 2012