This year 60,000 people will be told they have pancreatic cancer. Every 12 minutes someone dies of it. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat and even harder to beat. In fact, by 2028 pancreatic cancer will be the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. But researchers have discovered a new therapy that may be able to give hope to patients.
Alex Trebek, Steve Jobs, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Patrick Swayze, Michael Landon, Pavarotti. From the superstars to the stars of our own families, pancreatic cancer does not discriminate.
“It is the silent killer,” stated James McReynolds.
Treatment may involve radiation, surgery and chemo, but often pancreatic cancer is resistant to drugs. Researchers at UC San Diego and Moores Cancer Center are developing a new tumor-penetrating therapy. A peptide called iRGD is given with chemotherapy and can break through the fibrous tissue protecting the cancer.
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“It kind of travels through the microenvironment. And along with that, the drugs that are co-administered can do the same,” explained Andrew Lowy, MD, Surgical Oncologist, Moores Cancer Center, UC San Diego.
In lab mice, you can see within 15 minutes of being injected with the iRGD therapy, the drugs penetrate the tumor. In a small study, the tumors stopped growing in 93% of the patients given iRGD. Fifty percent had their tumors shrink.
“That's an unheard-of number essentially in pancreas cancer,” continued Dr. Lowy.
Now a larger national study is planned in the next year.
“If everything worked out as we hope, we could get more efficacy with less side effects to achieve a better result and that would really be a home run,” said Dr. Lowy.
None of the patients in the smaller clinical trial reported any significant side effects. And this is good news not only for pancreatic cancer, but this therapy could be adapted for several other hard-to-treat cancers.
Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.