Pancreatic cancer is extremely difficult to treat. By the time it is detected, the cancer often has reached an advanced stage, and patients usually do not survive longer than one year after diagnosis. An aggressive chemotherapy regimen is the first-line treatment, but the side effects can be severe, and many tumors stop responding to treatment.
Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified a drug compound that makes pancreatic cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy. Studying mice, they found evidence suggesting that the drug also may reduce some of the damaging side effects of the chemotherapy cocktail FOLFIRINOX (a combination of folinic acid, 5-fluorouracil, irinotecan and oxaliplatin), commonly used to treat pancreatic cancer.
The study is published Dec. 1 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
“There is a tremendous need for new and better therapies for pancreatic cancer,” said senior author and medical oncologist Kian-Huat Lim, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine. “The drugs that we use now are powerful but often cause severe side effects, making it impossible to add more chemotherapy. This new drug appears to weaken the cancer cells and make them more sensitive to this particular chemotherapy regimen. In fact, the mice treated with chemotherapy plus this drug appear to be healthier than mice receiving chemotherapy alone, so there’s a chance the new drug is mitigating side effects.”
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