A team of researchers have discovered a protein that could help in blocking genetic mutation of pancreatic cancer cells.

The biggest challenge for doctors is the lack of effective therapeutic options to treat pancreatic cancer, a deadly disease that consumes 38,000 people in the United States every year.

Scientists know that a gene called KRAS oncogene is mutated in most pancreatic cancers and efforts are on for nearly three decades to stop the growth of the pancreatic cancer tumors. Now, a paper published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, a team from UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center has found that a protein called RGL2 could potentially block the growth of the cancer cells.

"The pathway we talk about this paper is one we have investigating for more than five years. We think it is an attractive target for achieving what has, to date, been impossible: making a KRAS-blocking drug," said Channing Der, PhD, who led the research.

We are particularly optimistic about RGL2 because we know that this protein is a critical component of KRAS signaling to another class of proteins called Ral GTPases, which are essential for the growth of almost all pancreatic tumors," said Der, a distinguished professor of pharmacology and UNC Lineberger member.

RGL2 is overexpressed in pancreatic tumor cells grown in the laboratory, the research found out. It also did the same in tissue taken from patients with pancreatic cancer.

"Many ideas work in the artificial environment of cell culture but not in real cancer patients. Our work with actual pancreatic tumor tissue makes us optimistic that our new understanding of this pathway can lead to a therapeutic impact for the cancer patient," said Der.