American Association for Cancer Research

AACR Press Releases

High-fat/calorie Diet Accelerates Development of Pancreatic Cancer


June 20, 2012

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  • A-high fat/calorie diet speeds development of precancerous lesions in mice.
  • Diet produces obese mice with pancreatic inflammation.
  • Human obesity may promote pancreatic cancer development.
LAKE TAHOE, Nev. — Study results presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Pancreatic Cancer: Progress and Challenges conference, held here June 18-21, strongly suggest that a diet high in fat and calories can hasten the development of pancreatic cancer in humans.

“Our results showed that in mice, a diet high in fat and calories led to obesity and metabolic disturbances such as insulin resistance that are seen in obese humans. It also greatly enhanced pancreatic inflammation and pancreatic cancer development,” said Guido Eibl, M.D., an associate professor in the department of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles and a researcher at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Human epidemiological studies have linked high fat intake and obesity to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, but the mechanism driving this association has not been understood.

To understand the link, Eibl and his colleagues first tested the hypothesis that diet is linked to cancer. They fed a corn oil-based diet that had a high content of fat and calories to mice with a genetic mutation that caused them to develop pancreatic precancer. The same gene, KRAS, is mutated in the majority of human pancreatic cancers.

The results showed that 90 percent of the mice fed the special diet became obese, and all of these mice developed insulin resistance and inflammation in the pancreas. Both of these conditions can stimulate the growth of precancerous cells and cancer. These mice also developed significantly more advanced precancerous lesions than did mice fed a normal diet.

“This suggests that the high-fat, high-calorie diet accelerated pancreatic cancer development,” said Eibl. “A KRAS mutation in the pancreas might not be sufficient to cause an individual to develop pancreatic cancer. It likely needs something in addition – a secondary hit. Our study showed that a high-fat, high-calorie diet could provide an environmental secondary hit and trigger cancer development.”

The researchers are now defining the role that inflammation produced by obesity plays in development of the cancer, and if agents such as antidiabetic drugs or fish oil can halt this disease process.

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About the AACR

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR’s membership includes 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes seven peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of individual and team science grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer.  

For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.

Media Contact:
Jeremy Moore
(215) 446-7109
Jeremy.Moore@aacr.org
In Lake Tahoe, June 18-20:
(775) 886-6820