We are rapidly demystifying cancers, exposing the molecular mechanisms underlying tumors and leading the search for the next generation of targeted cancer therapies. We see a future where every cancer and every patient has a cure.



Sugars that coat proteins are a possible drug target for pancreatitis

Patients who suffer from hereditary pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) have a 40 to 50 percent lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Assistant Professor Dannielle Engle and her team have provided the first evidence that a potentially powerful biomarker, CA19-9, causes the disease it has been correlated with, and they suggest that blocking this complex sugar could be used therapeutically to prevent the progression from pancreatitis to pancreatic cancer.

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Science Advances

Unlocking therapies for hard-to-treat lung cancers

In two recent papers, Salk scientists revealed insights into the most common—and deadliest—type of lung cancer: non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC). Some patients with this cancer can be treated with targeted genetic therapies, and some benefit from immunotherapies, but the vast majority of NSCLC patients have no treatment options beyond chemotherapy. In Science Advances, Professor Marc Montminy, Professor Reuben Shaw, first author Laura Rodón and colleagues showed that NSCLC tumors can be targeted by drugs that keep a cellular “switch” called CREB from triggering tumor growth.

Additionally, as detailed in Cancer Discovery, Shaw, first author Pablo Hollstein and colleagues discovered precisely why an inactivated gene commonly mutated in NSCLC, called LKB1, can result in cancer development.The surprising finding highlights how LKB1 communicates with two enzymes that suppress inflammation in addition to cell growth and could lead to new therapies for NSCLC.

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Cell Reports

Mapping normal breast development to better understand cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers, and some forms rank among the most difficult to treat. Professor Geoffrey Wahl, co-first authors Christopher Dravis and Zhibo Ma and colleagues have used state-of-the-art technology to profile cells during normal breast development in order to understand what goes wrong in cancer. The team’s findings, shared in a free online resource, lay the groundwork for understanding normal breast development and may lead to new strategies for tackling tumors.

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Science Signaling

Discovery of how colorectal cancer drug works may help patients

Colorectal cancer is a common lethal disease, and treatment decisions are increasingly influenced by which genes are mutated within each patient. Some patients benefit from a chemotherapy drug called cetuximab, but the mechanism was unknown, making doctors hesitant to prescribe it. Assistant Professor Edward Stites, first author Thomas McFall and colleagues have discovered the mechanism behind why some patients respond to cetuximab, which will help doctors identify more effective, targeted treatment plans for people diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The findings demonstrate the power of blending computational and experimental approaches, as well as how foundational scientific research can translate into an immediate impact for patients.

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