In a new study, researchers found a new drug may help enhance the effect of chemotherapy on pancreatic cancer.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Twente.
Pancreatic cancer is the cancer with the worst survival rates. After the—often late—diagnosis, most of the patients die within 3 to 4 months.
Surgery for removing the tumor is, in many cases, not possible because of the risk of damaging other vital organs.
One of the major obstacles in the treatment of pancreatic cancer is the defense wall that is formed around the tumor.
This “desmoplastic stroma” prevents chemotherapy from reaching the tumor.
In the study, the scientists found out which part of the stroma can best be attacked.
Furthermore, they discovered a peptide that can serve as an attacker.
In the study, the team found a protein called integrin alpha 5, ITGA5 proved to be decisive in the survival rate of patients with pancreatic cancer.
They examined tumor tissues of 140 patients were examined.
Furthermore, with extensive biological experiments, the team proved that attacking ITGA5 biologically would reduce the stroma and give better access to the tumor.
The team also discovered a short crucial sequence of seven amino acids, that is hidden in a large protein from the body named fibronectin.
This sequence is named AV3 peptide and turned out to be the best candidate for blocking ITGA5.
Tests with a human tumor inserted into a mouse also showed a reduction of up to 80% of the tumor size.
Reducing the tumor in size could already open the way for surgery. But according to the team, higher doses of AV3 with cytostatics could even remove the tumor as a whole.
Before testing this on humans, it is necessary to determine the response of healthy humans on AV3. Until now, there are no signs of toxicity.
After AV3 proves to be safe, there will be a procedure for approval, followed by clinical trials using both AV3 and cytostatics.
The team hopes the first human study is expected in 2021 while the therapeutic studies in patients can start in 2022-2023.
The study is published in Science Advances.
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