Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
PDAC cell-cell communication through membrane tubes: effects on cell survival and tumor progression
All cells in the body must communicate in order to function. Cancer cells have a particularly acute need to communicate for survival, and communication between cancer cells contributes to their ability to resist chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Several methods of cancer cell communication have been discovered, including intercellular membrane tubules (IMTs). IMTs are finger-like protrusions that can extend long distances and contact other cells. IMT connections are used to pass material or information between cells, aiding in cell survival. Imagine a garden hose connecting two fish tanks, with fish able to pass from one tank to the other through the hose. IMTs serve the purpose of the garden hose. My laboratory has found abundant IMTs in pancreatic cancer cells grown in isolation (after they have been taken out of a tumor), and we have preliminary evidence that IMTs are present in the intact tumor itself. We would use Hirshberg Foundation funding for several purposes. First, we would test whether IMT are present in tumors from a variety of pancreatic tumor patients. If IMTs are universally present in tumors, treatments abolishing IMTs might be effective on all pancreatic cancers. If IMTs are only present in some tumors, we can focus only on these tumors in a more personalized approach. Second, would figure out how IMTs are made and how they transmit information. If we can identify key molecules in these processes, we can design treatments for blocking them. Our goal is to help pancreatic cancer patients by developing new treatment methods.