In the search for much needed new treatments for pancreatic cancer – a deadly and aggressive disease with a poor survival rate – scientists are looking for clues at the molecular level. Now, a recent study finds that a small molecule called MIR506 appears to play an important role in the fate of pancreatic cancer cells, and may offer a way to stop their growth and ability to spread. The study – published in the journal Autophagy – is the work of a team led by Wei Zhang, a professor in cancer at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. When they measured the levels of MIR506 in the mice, the team noticed that they were lower in pancreatic tumors than in a normal pancreas. Further tests showed that adding MIR506 to experimental tumor cells stopped cancer cell growth and blocked the cell function that causes them to metastasize – the process by which cells migrate from the primary tumor to set up secondary tumors in neighboring tissue and other parts of the body.