UBC scientists have demonstrated a causal link between high insulin levels and pancreatic cancer. In a study published in Cell Metabolism (“Endogenous Hyperinsulinemia Contributes to Pancreatic Cancer Development”), researchers lowered insulin levels in mice predisposed to developing pancreatic cancer and found that the lower levels protected the mice against developing the disease. The findings hold promise for early detection and prevention of pancreatic cancer in humans.
For the study, lead author and PhD student Anni Zhang crossed a strain of mice that is genetically incapable of developing a rise in insulin with a strain of mice predisposed to developing pancreatic cancer. These and the control mice were fed a diet for a year that was known to increase insulin levels and promote pancreatic cancer. At the end of the yearlong study, the mice with slightly reduced insulin levels were shown to be protected from the start of pancreatic cancer.