Could pancreatic cancer be blocked?

Identifying pancreatic cancer up to three years early 

Researchers have developed a new drug that has the ability to prevent pancreatic cancer growth and potentially block the cancer cells from growing.

The study, conducted on mice, demonstrated that the new drug Metavert may prevent patients from developing a resistance to currently used pancreatic cancer chemotherapies.

Improving survival rates in pancreatic cancer patients

The pancreatic cancer five-year survival rate is 7%. According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. This year alone, roughly 55,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with the disease and more than 44,000 will die, making it one of the deadliest cancers.

Study lead Mouad Edderkaoui, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and biomedical sciences at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai, USA, said: “This is an exciting step toward improving survival rates in pancreatic cancer patients.

“If the results are confirmed in humans, we could have a drug with the potential to significantly extend the lives of patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which is very difficult to treat.”

Details of the study

95% of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed with PDAC, which essentially develops from cells lining small tubes in the pancreas. PDAC can be difficult to combat because the cancer cells prompt normal cells that reside in the pancreas, called stellate cells, to produce pancreatic scar tissue. This scar tissue makes it difficult for chemotherapy agents and blood to enter the pancreas.

The interaction between the cancer and stellate cell creates an environment that stimulates tumour growth and cancer spread to other areas of the body. Moreover, the activity levels of certain enzymes further increase, therefore fuelling resistance to cancer treatments.

“I’ve seen patients who respond to therapy for a while, and then the disease takes off because the cancer becomes smart – it blocks chemotherapy from working,” said study senior author Stephen J Pandol MD, director of Basic and Translational Pancreas Research at Cedars-Sinai.

Across the period of four years, the researchers discovered that Metavert blocked drug resistance and significantly boosted the positive effects of radiation and two chemotherapy agents typically used in humans.

Now according to Pandol, looking ahead, the researchers are now currently developing a version of the drug to test in humans.

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