Heart hormones inhibit growth of pancreatic cancer cells in laboratory, USF/VA study finds

June 19, 2003

Tampa, FL (June 19, 2003) -- For the first time, hormones made by the heart have been shown to dramatically decrease the number of human pancreatic cancer cells grown in a laboratory, report researchers at the University of South Florida Cardiac Hormone Center and the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital.

The four hormones were at least twice as effective at tumor cell reduction as 5-fluorouracil -- a standard drug used for 45 years to treat pancreatic cancer.

The findings will be presented June 20 in Philadelphia, PA, at ENDO 2003, the 85th Annual Meeting of The Endocrine Society.

"The results were surprising and striking," said USF endocrinologist David Vesely, MD, PhD, the study's principal investigator. "One of these peptide hormones, called vessel dilator, killed 65 percent of the pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells within 24 hours compared to the population of untreated cancer cells. Equally important, DNA synthesis seems to stay shut down -- the remaining cancer cells don't make new cells."

The researchers found that the hormones appear to work by inhibiting DNA synthesis and the growth of cancer cells, not by prompting cancer cells to self-destruct, a process known as apoptosis.

The researchers looked at the effects of four peptide hormones produced mainly by the heart to help lower blood pressure and promote excretion of excess salt and water. In addition to vessel dilator, they were long-acting natriuretic peptide (LANP), kaliuretic peptide and atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP). Three of the four hormones, all except ANP, were discovered by Dr. Vesely.

A small dose of LANP added to pancreatic cancer cells grown in a petri dish reduced the number of cells by 47 percent in 24 hours. The decrease in cancer cells was 37 percent for kaliuretic peptide and 34 percent for ANP. The decreases were sustained for the 4-day length of the experiment. In contrast, the chemotherapeutic drug 5-fluorouracil reduced pancreatic cells grown in culture by only 16 percent.

Dr. Vesely has studied for several years the use of hormones made by the heart, collectively known as atrial natriuretic peptides, to diagnose and treat congestive heart failure. This latest study suggests they may also hold promise for treating a variety of adenocarcinomas, including those in the breast, prostate and colon as well as the pancreas, he said. "One benefit of these naturally-occurring hormones is they have fewer side effects than other drugs."

The researchers are applying for funding to test the effectiveness of the four heart hormones in mice with human adenocarcinomas.

University of South Florida (USF Health)

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