In recent years, it has become clear that the current standard therapeutic options for pancreatic cancer are not adequate and still do not meet the criteria to cure patients suffering from this lethal disease. Although research over the past decade has shown very interesting and promising new therapeutic options for these patients, only minor clinical success was achieved. Therefore, there is still an urgent need for new approaches that deal with early detection and new therapeutic options in pancreatic cancer. To provide optimal care for patients with pancreatic cancer, we need to understand better its complex molecular biology and thus to identify new target molecules that promote the proliferation and resistance to chemotherapy of pancreatic cancer cells. In spite of significant progress in curing cancers with chemotherapy, pancreatic cancer remains one of the most resistant solid tumour cancers and many studies suggest that drug-resistant cancer cells are the most aggressive with the highest relapse and metastatic rates. In this context, activated Notch signalling is strongly linked with chemoresistance and therefore reflects a rational new target to circumvent resistance to chemotherapy in pancreatic cancer. Here, we have focused our discussion on the latest research, current therapy options and recently identified target molecules such as Notch-2 and the heparin-binding growth factor midkine, which exhibit a wide range of cancer-relevant functions and therefore provide attractive new therapeutic target molecules, in terms of pancreatic cancer and other cancers also.
This article is part of a themed section on Midkine. To view the other articles in this section visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bph.2014.171.issue-4