A new study from Albert Einstein College of Medicine found a way to make pancreatic tumors visible to the immune systems of mice and vulnerable to immune attack, reducing cancer metastases by 87%.
The study is published in Science Translational Medicine and was conducted by Claudia Gravekamp et al.
Pancreatic cancer is notoriously difficult to cure or even treat. Today’s checkpoint inhibitor drugs work well against some types of cancer but only rarely help people with pancreatic cancer.
The problem is those pancreatic tumors aren’t sufficiently ‘foreign’ to attract the immune system’s attention and can usually suppress whatever immune responses do occur.
In the study, the new treatment strategy capitalizes on the fact that virtually all people are vaccinated in childhood against tetanus, a serious disease caused by a toxic protein that Clostridiumbacteria secrete.
Thanks to their tetanus-specific memory T cells, which circulate in the bloodstream for life, vaccinated people will mount a strong immune response if they’re later exposed to the highly foreign tetanus toxin.
The team effectively aroused a potent and specific immune response against pancreatic cancer cells by infecting them with bacteria that deliver tetanus toxin into the cells.
The team says the Listeria bacteria are quite weak and are readily killed off by the immune systems of people and animals—everywhere, that is, except in tumor areas.
The new treatment strategy actually takes advantage of the fact that pancreatic tumors are so good at suppressing the immune system to protect themselves.
The treatment shrank the size of the pancreatic tumors by an average of 80% and also significantly reduced the number of metastases by 87%, while the treated animals lived 40% longer than untreated (control) animals.
The findings indicate that this treatment approach could be useful immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer as well as other types of cancer, such as ovarian cancer.
Recent studies have found a new treatment to fight pancreatic cancer, and common opioid painkillers may increase pancreatic cancer risk, which is highly relevant to the current study.
In a recent study from the University of South Australia, researchers developed a new drug for people currently battling pancreatic cancer.
Taken as an oral capsule, the new drug Auceliciclib is already demonstrating great potential in clinical trials to treat glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer.
Both these cancers share an insidious reputation for being two of the hardest to treat, with low survival rates and late diagnosis.
Pancreatic cancer is extremely difficult to diagnose at an early stage because there are very few symptoms.
If it is caught early the malignant tumor can be surgically removed, but once it spreads into other organs it is lethal, and chemotherapy and radiotherapy only buy patients a little extra time.
Auceliciclib has been designed to specifically target CDK4/6 enzymes, which have impaired function in pancreatic cancer, making it more effective with fewer side effects compared to the current therapy.
The team is also working on a novel biomarker for pancreatic cancer, hoping to undertake genetic profiling of patients to see if they have any common characteristics.
Another study from the University of Birmingham and published in Pancreatology found almost half of people diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer are not prescribed inexpensive yet essential tablets without which they cannot digest food.
This places them at risk of starvation or being less able to tolerate treatment.
The tablet is known as Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy (PERT). It is a very simple tablet that allows patients with pancreatic cancer to absorb their food and is a vitally important part of their treatment.
As pancreatic cancer grows, it stops the pancreas from producing enzymes needed to digest food and absorb nutrients.
PERT tablets are therefore essential to help patients eat, stay healthy enough to tolerate treatment and to manage debilitating symptoms from cancer—including pain, diarrhea, and extreme weight loss.
In the study, the team examined the records of 1,350 patients with pancreatic cancer in the UK.
They found huge variation in prescription rates for PERT across 84 NHS hospitals (59 non-specialist and 25 specialist surgical hospitals).
In the patients who had been diagnosed too late to have surgery (the only cure for the disease), just 45% were prescribed PERT tablets. Meanwhile, of those whose cancer was deemed operable, 74% were prescribed PERT.
Around 9,900 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer per year in the UK, and sadly for 80 percent of them, it is too late to have surgery.
The cost of PERT for one person per day is approximately £7, although the exact cost will vary depending on the number of tablets taken, the supplier of PERT, and the dosage.
If you care about cancer prevention, please read studies about drug for depression that may help stop cancer growth, and findings of existing drugs that can kill cancer.
For more information about cancer risk, please see recent studies about drug that can strengthen immune system to fight cancer, and results showing Aspirin may boost survival in these two cancers.
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