In a new study, researchers have developed a new drug that could improve life expectancy and quality for patients with hard-to-treat cancers, such as pancreatic cancer and relapsed breast cancer.
Findings showed the new drug molecules had a positive effect in the treatment of pancreatic cancer in mouse models.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Sheffield.
Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all common cancers, with only 7% of patients surviving five years after diagnosis.
The team made the discovery after examining a hormone, called adrenomedullin, which controls blood pressure and other vital body processes, but also stimulates the growth and spread of cancer.
Using novel drug molecules, known as adrenomedullin-2 receptor antagonists, the scientists discovered a way to block the way that adrenomedullin is used in communication with cancer cells, without affecting the way it helps to regulate vital processes in the body such as blood pressure.
They say that the most extraordinary part of this new therapy is the fact that nature designed the hormone adrenomedullin to have two different types of receptor—one which helps to regulate our blood pressure and the other which is involved in the way that cancer cells communicate with each other and the host cells, helping cancers to grow and spread
They have designed a unique piece to fit into nature’s jigsaw which will block signals from one receptor but allow the other to work as normal.
In blocking the hormone’s communication with the cancer cells we are cutting off its supply to the things that it needs to thrive.
This means tumors can’t grow as fast as they are starved of the resources they need and it becomes more difficult for them to spread to other areas of the body.
Pancreatic cancer tumors are notoriously aggressive and difficult to treat and their location makes it easy for cancer to spread to nearby organs such as the liver and stomach.
The nature of pancreatic cancers means it is hard to get current drugs into the tumor. The researchers believe adrenomedullin-2 receptors offer advantages for pancreatic cancer patients.
The novel drug molecules were found to be effective in treating pancreatic cancer tumors in mice models.
Tumors did not grow as fast which provides evidence to suggest life expectancy would be extended.
The compound is different from traditional therapies such as cytotoxic drugs and radiotherapy because it targets a very small number of cells and does not damage healthy cells in the body.
It is hoped this will improve the quality of life for patients undergoing treatment.
It is thought the concept will also be beneficial in other traditional hard-to-treat cancers such as relapsed breast cancer and lung cancer.
One author of the study is Professor Tim Skerry.
The study is published in ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science.
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