Being one of the deadliest forms of cancer, pancreatic cancer affects about 458,918 individuals worldwide (as of 2018) and has affected about 56,770 people in the U.S this year. Only less than 10% of individuals diagnosed with the condition remain alive for five years.

New research has found a promising way of treating pancreatic cancer and it is hoped to get into clinical trials soon.

The researchers at Stanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute have found that a new drug combination of two anti-cancer compounds: MEK inhibitor and L-asparaginase when taken together has found to starve off the pancreatic tumors of essential nutrients and pathways that will help the cancer cells to multiply.

The study used a drug called L-asparaginase to starve pancreatic tumors of a key nutrient that is needed for protein synthesis. They found that the tumor turned on a stress response pathway instead of dying. They then treated it with an FDA-approved drug called MEK inhibitor which blocked the stress response pathway and finally shrank the pancreatic tumor.

The researchers opine that their study forms the basis for the inhibition of pancreatic tumor growth by using a combined synergistic attack. They also found out that the two drugs also shrank melanoma tumors in mice models. But due to the larger unmet clinical need pertaining to pancreatic cancer, they have decided to focus on it currently.

The study highlights the fact that there might not be a single magic bullet that can cure cancer but there could be several drugs targeting multiple vulnerabilities that could be used as a combination to treat cancer.

"The sad reality is that at present, pancreatic cancer therapy is lagging since there is no effective treatment for these tumors," MedicalXpress quoted the study’s lead author Ze'ev Ronai, Ph.D. "Our study identifies a potential treatment combination that can immediately be tested against these aggressive tumors. We are already meeting with oncologists at Oregon Health & Science University to discuss how to advance this discovery into clinical evaluation."

What are those two drugs?

  1. Asparaginase: A chemotherapy drug that is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia and a few other blood disorders.
  2. MEK inhibitors: Drugs that have the ability to restrict the growth of tumor cells.
symptoms of pancreatic cancer
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