A NEW technique to study tissue samples in 3D has revealed that pancreatic cancers can start and grow in two distinct ways, solving a decades-old mystery of how tumours form.
The new method could help researchers to get more information from tissue biopsies and may lead to improved treatments for pancreatic cancers. The technique was developed by scientists at the Francis Crick Institute, and their results are published in Nature. The work was supported by the European Research Council and core funding from the MRC (one of the Crick’s founding partners).
The pancreas is a crucial organ that sits behind our stomach and plays a key role in digestion. It relies on a network of ducts linking it to other digestive organs, and the most common pancreatic cancers are found in the ducts. However, until now it has only been possible to see 2D slices of these ductal cancers, which contained an unexplained variety of abnormal shapes.
“To investigate the origins of pancreatic cancer, we spent six years developing a new method to analyse cancer biopsies in three dimensions,” explains Dr Hendrik Messal from the Francis Crick Institute, co-lead author of the research paper. “This technique revealed that cancers develop in the duct walls and either grow inwards or outwards depending on the size of the duct. This explains the mysterious shape differences that we’ve been seeing in 2D slices for decades.”
By analysing developing cancers in 3D, the team defined two distinct types of cancer formation: ‘endophytic’ tumours which grow inwards and ‘exophytic’ tumours which grow outwards. To find out what makes cancer cells grow in a particular way, they analysed detailed 3D images and worked with biophysicists at the Crick who created sophisticated computer models.
“We made a simulation of the ducts, describing individual cell geometry to understand tissue shape,” explains biophysicist Dr Silvanus Alt, co-lead author of the paper. “The model and experimental results both confirmed that cancer grew outwards when the diameter of the duct was less than approximately 20 micrometres, around a fiftieth of a millimetre.”
The work was made possible by an interdisciplinary collaboration between two research groups at the Crick, led by Dr Axel Behrens and Dr Guillaume Salbreux. Axel’s group works on stem cells and pancreatic cancer, while Guillaume focuses on using physics to understand biological processes.
“I think we first started discussing this when we bumped into each other in the bike shed,” says Axel. “It’s amazing what can come out of a chance encounter, we now have a patented technique to see the three-dimensional shapes of cancers and a biophysical understanding of the emergence of tumours. Now that we know pancreatic cancer can develop in these two different ways, we can start looking at whether one is likely to be more aggressive or spread in a different way. Many years from now, this could lead to improved diagnostic or treatment options.”
The team also applied the technique to other organs and found that cancers in the airways of the lungs and ducts in the liver behave in the same way. This shows that the mechanism the teams discovered is not specific to the pancreas and also applies to other cancers.
“Both the data and our models indicate that the two different mechanisms of tumour growth are purely down to the innate physics of the system,” explains Dr Guillaume Salbreux. “Like most cancers, ductal pancreatic cancer starts with a single defective cell that starts dividing. We found that very quickly, when there are only a few cells, the tumour has already started to grow either inwards or outwards depending on duct diameter. Defining this fundamental process will help us to better understand how cancer grows in many places across the body.”
Dr Mariana Delfino-Machin, Programme Manager for Cancer at the MRC, said: “Pancreatic cancer remains a very difficult disease to treat but understanding that it can grow in different ways will inform the development of more accurate treatments in the future.
“These findings came about thanks to researchers working in very different fields coming together to successfully tackle the same problem.”
Go Wild for Beat the Street Llanelli
PARTICIPANTS in the Beat the Street Llanelli are invited to Go Wild this week!
The themed week starts on Wednesday, October 19, with the aim of encouraging local residents to explore their local parks, waterways and green spaces. Beat the Street players are invited to score double points this weekend on Beat Boxes in parks, green spaces and along the seafront.
Already, more than 6,200 people have signed up to the real-life interactive physical activity game and have together walked, cycled and rolled nearly 30,000 active travel miles. The community’s efforts mean that organisers of the game have donated £100 to three local charities; Tyisha Foodbank, Calon and Mind. A further £100 will be donated to all three when the total mileage reaches 45,000 miles!
There are also total and average points leaderboards for school, community, workplace teams and individuals with prizes for sports or book vouchers for the teams that top the tables at the end of the six-week competition.
Currently, Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes leads the total points leaderboard, with Llangennech in second place and Stebonheath CP School in third. Ysgol Gymraeg Brynsierfel is in fourth place on the total points leaderboard and eight on the average points leaderboard.
Zoe Jermin-Jones, Assistant Headteacher at Ysgol Gymraeg Brynsierfel, said: “We think that this fun, innovative idea is fantastic! Our learners at Ysgol Gymraeg Brynsierfel have told us that the idea of competing in a town-wide game is really exciting! They are involving parents, family members and friends, and are telling us everything about how people are getting out and about, walking, cycling and scooting. Our teachers can even be seen taking walks around Llwynhendy during their lunch breaks. We have received nothing but positive feedback from all involved.
Beat the Street is a truly wonderful resource that improves both physical and mental wellbeing. We’re looking forward to future Beat the Street games already!”
Beat the Street Llanelli: commissioned by Carmarthenshire County Council, supported by Sport Wales, provided by Intelligent Health.
Paolo Piana, Chair, Llanelli Community Partnership, said: “We’re delighted to support the Beat the Street programme and it’s great to see people out exercising and exploring new areas. It’s amazing how we tend to stick to the same tried and tested routes and how the game has opened up the idea of exploring the town on foot, which reveals new areas and parks you might not have known about, even if you’ve lived here for years.
“Beat the Street is a positive and community-focused way of encouraging people to get more active, by walking, cycling, rolling and wheeling around this beautiful area.”
Anyone of any age is invited to take part in the free game and you can still get involved for the remaining weeks. Just pick up a card from one of the distribution points listed at www.beatthestreet.me/llanelli, register your card, join a team and get playing! For more information, news and FAQs, follow @BTSLlanelli on social media.
Hywel Dda Health Board confirms Bank holiday arrangements
FOLLOWING confirmation that Monday, 19 September, will be a Bank Holiday to mark the Queen’s State Funeral, the Health Board is contacting all patients to confirm or re-arrange their appointments, depending on service availability. Whilst all emergency services will be operating as normal, we need to adjust some elements of our planned care services and prioritise patients with urgent care needs wherever possible.
Our Chemotherapy Units will be operating as normal on Monday and some surgery for urgent cases will take place at our hospitals.
Where appointments need to be re-scheduled, patients are being contacted over the coming days by the relevant team to re-arrange their appointment as quickly as possible. In some cases, this may mean bringing appointments forward to this week. Some face-to-face outpatient appointments will still go ahead, and some may be held as an online/virtual appointment on Monday.
If you have an appointment on Monday, and have not been contacted by 1pm on Friday, please contact the health board’s communication hub on 0300 3038322 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information and guidance. Staff at the communication hub are available to answer calls between 10am-4pm on Saturday, and 10am-3pm on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday. We are contacting all patients by telephone or text message, please check your telephone for any messages.
As GP surgeries and most Community Pharmacies and Dental services will be closed on Monday, a Bank Holiday out of hours service will be provided. Individuals requiring repeat prescriptions are encouraged to arrange them in advance.
All urgent and emergency care services will continue as normal. If you are unwell and unsure what to do, you can visit the online symptom checker or call NHS 111. The Minor Injury Units at acute hospital sites will be open as usual. Opening hours for community walk-in services can be found on the health board’s website. Please attend an Emergency Department, or call 999, if you have a life-threatening illness or serious injury, such as:
Severe breathing difficulties
- Severe pain or bleeding
- Chest pain or a suspected stroke
- Serious trauma injuries (e.g. from a car crash)
We apologise for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your support and patience.
Autumn Covid-19 booster roll-out begins today in Wales
THE ROLL-out of the autumn Covid-19 booster has started today (September 1) in Wales with care home residents and staff across Wales the first to receive the vaccine.
Everyone who is eligible for the autumn booster will be invited for a vaccination by their health boards. Invitations will be issued in order of vulnerability, with everyone eligible being offered a booster vaccine by December.
The vaccine will help support the immunity of all those who are at higher risk from COVID-19, improving their protection against severe illness, while also helping to support the NHS during winter 2022-23.
This autumn, in line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine booster will be offered to:
- Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
- Frontline health and social care workers
- All adults aged 50 years and over
- People aged five to 49 years who are in a clinical risk group
- People aged five to 49 years who are household contacts of people who are immunosuppression
- People aged 16 to49 who are carers.
In line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), eligible adults aged 18 and over will initially be offered the Moderna vaccine which protects from both the original strain of coronavirus and the Omicron variant. Those eligible aged under 18 will be offered the Pfizer vaccine. Both vaccines will be offered at least three months after a previous dose.
The vaccines will be administered in a variety of settings including GP surgeries and vaccination centres.
The winter respiratory vaccination strategy will ensure all those eligible for the autumn booster are also protected from seasonal flu – people are being encouraged to take up the flu vaccine when offered. All those eligible for a flu vaccine will be offered it before the end of the year.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “Our winter respiratory vaccination programme will help protect the most vulnerable in our communities from flu and coronavirus this winter. The COVID-19 booster campaign will start with those in care homes, alongside those working within the NHS and the social care sector.
“Vaccines have had an enormous impact on the course of the pandemic – they have saved countless lives and given us the freedom and confidence to restart our lives.
“I want to thank everyone working in the NHS and other organisations who will once again lead efforts to protect the most vulnerable through vaccination.
“This year, we will once again offer an expanded flu programme, with 1.5 million people being eligible for a free vaccine.
I would encourage anyone who is eligible to take up their invitation to help themselves.
“All eligible adults will be invited for their autumn COVID-19 booster via letter and text message from their health board by December and I would ask people not to contact their GPs about their invite so they can continue to focus on looking after people’s health.”