Dayeon Kang Yongsan International School of Seoul 12th Grade
With a five-year survival rate at a meager 8%, pancreatic cancer stands as the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Although there has been a steady increase in survival rates for other cancers, the prognosis for patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer remains poor. The cancer is qualitatively characterized according to its various stages of progression, but when the cancer is medically determined to be unresectable, i.e. locally advanced, the tumor is able to invade key arteries in the body with no hint of metastasis. Despite chemoradiation and other systemic treatment, a great majority of patients ultimately have their illness advance to the metastatic state. The prognosis for patients with unresectable disease remains poor despite developments in clinical management, making these patients an important population to take into account for future advancements in therapeutic approaches.
Recently, ribonucleic acid interference (RNAi) has been considered a promising alternative to chemoradiation, as RNAi better regulates gene expression through the degradation of specific disease-causing sequences found on normal RNA encoding protein sequences. However, this alternative only exists as a short-term remedy, and new treatment options ought to be considered as means to suppressing metastatic behavior in pancreatic cancer cells. I’ve had the privilege of working to develop one method of therapy: short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-based therapy alongside viral vectors. Our research team’s efforts focused on enabling the shRNA to silence mutant genes for a longer period while still maintaining its compatibility alongside non-mutant genes already encoded in the cellular genome. shRNA therapy only requires one injection while therapy using RNAi requires repeated treatment. Another advantage of shRNA is that it has a greater inhibitory effect than systemically administered siRNA because shRNA is endogenously expressed. Experimental designs using a specific siRNA (EphA2) were posited as ways of testing gene expression in mice. While much has yet to be experimented and considered regarding the treatment’s efficacy, the possibility of developing a new treatment course for pancreatic cancer should be good news for the medical community at large.
<Dayeon Kang Yongsan International School of Seoul 12