In a new study, researchers found a new drug could help improve survival in people with pancreatic cancer.
A clinical trial testing the new drug in pancreatic cancer had shown promising initial results.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center.
The new drug is called AZD1775, which is an inhibitor designed to block an enzyme Wee1 that plays a role in DNA damage repair.
The research builds on almost 20 years of research at U-M focused on improving the treatment of pancreatic cancer that is too advanced for surgery.
Pancreatic cancer is particularly known for spreading to distant parts of the body, part of the reason overall five-year survival is just 9%.
Currently, radiation and the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine are the standard treatment for pancreatic cancer, both work by causing damage to DNA.
But pancreatic cancer has a way of repairing that damage, which limits how effective these therapies can be.
In the new study, the team tested 34 patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer. Patients received the drug AZD1775 in addition to radiation and gemcitabine.
The team found the AZD1775 could prevent pancreatic cancer from protecting itself against the effects of radiation and gemcitabine while leaving normal cells relatively unaffected.
They also found that this combination resulted in better than expected overall survival.
The median overall survival in the study was 22 months, with no progression for a median of nine months.
A previous study using gemcitabine alone in a similar group of patients found an overall survival of 12-14 months.
Now AZD1775 is being investigated in other cancer types, including breast and ovarian cancer. It is not FDA-approved.
The researchers are currently working on a follow-up phase 2 study in pancreatic cancer.
The lead author of the study is Kyle Cuneo, M.D., associate professor of radiation oncology at Michigan Medicine.
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
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