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UCSD Scientists Find a Target in Aggressive Cancers

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Aired 9/7/09

Some San Diego scientists say they've discovered a way to tame some of the most aggressive cancer tumors.

— Some San Diego scientists say they've discovered a way to tame some of the most aggressive cancer tumors.

Cancer tumors show great variety in their ability to spread. And medical scientists have know for quite a while that some of the most malignant tumors share a certain protein receptor. They've never know why the receptor is there or what is does. But now researchers at Moores Cancer Center, at UCSD, say the receptor activates an enzyme that makes cancer much more malignant. Pathology professor David Cheresh says this discovery is opportune because there's already a drug available that targets the enzyme. He says lab tests show that drug can make cancer tumors much less aggressive.

"What we've done is we've done is we've suppressed the high performance of these tumors," he said. "Haven't completely eliminated the tumor but we've made them much more controllable."

Chersh says this could give many cancer patients a better shot at survival. Nearly 60 percent pancreatic cancers include these receptors.

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