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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Ways scientists could treat and possibly prevent pancreatic cancer are being studied at the University of Tennessee, the chief investigator said Friday.

 Dr. Hildegard Schuller, a pathologist and director of the experimental oncology laboratory at the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, said the research team is studying molecular actions of cancer cells in the pancreas.

 The four-year, $1 million project is funded by the National Cancer Institute.

 “We’re specifically interested in finding what regulates the growth of these cells,” Schuller said.

 “Once we know that, it gives us a handle to specifically block those (genes and receptors) and prevent the development of these cancers.”

 Schuller’s past research has shown that the offspring of pregnant hamsters have a high rate of pancreatic cancer when they are given small amounts of alcohol and nicotine, she said. Hamsters normally have no incidence of the disease, she said.

 The studies suggested that children of women who drink alcohol and smoke may have a much higher risk of contracting pancreatic cancer when they reach adulthood, she said.

 Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related death in the United States. The disease is rarely detected at an early stage because little is known about factors that trigger its development and progression.


 Contact: Dr. Hildegard Schuller (423-974-8217)