18 February 2020

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a lethal cancer that is characterised by its poor prognosis, rapid progression and development of drug resistance.

A team of scientists from Queen Mary University London, AstraZeneca and ADC Therapeutics have identified a potential ally in the virus that causes foot and mouth disease in cows; an aphthovirus of the family Picornaviridae. A peptide isolated from the VP1 coat protein of the foot and mouth virus can seek out pancreatic cancer cells.

From this, the team developed a peptide-drug conjugate for therapy of PDAC. It can target integrin αvβ6, a protein that is overexpressed in most pancreatic cancers but is low or absent in the normal pancreas, therefore the hope is that if this can be developed into an effective treatment for pancreatic cancer, it would have limited side effects.

The study is published in the journal Theranostics.