Pancreatic Cancer Patients With BRCA Mutations Could Have a New Drug on the Way

According to a story from Worldpharmanews, a PARP inhibitor drug that is commonly used to treat ovarian cancer for patients with BRCA gene mutations could also be effective against pancreatic cancer for those that carry the same genetic abnormality. The drug in question is called rucaparib, which was only recently approved by the FDA for treating BRCA mutated ovarian cancer in women who had already tried prior therapies. However, in a Phase II trial, rucaparib also appeared to benefit patients with aggressive pancreatic cancer if those patients also had the BRCA mutation.
Pancreatic cancer affects the pancreas, a glandular organ that is positioned behind the stomach. This is a form of cancer that can be hard to treat because it rarely produces symptoms until it has begun to metastasize, or spread to other body parts. It is rarely diagnosed before age forty and tends to occur in people over 70. Symptoms include jaundice, depression, constipation, unexplained weight loss, and upper abdominal pain. Risk factors include certain genetic factors, smoking, diabetes, and obesity. A diet high in red and processed meat is also a possible factor. Overall survival rate is abysmal; five year survival is just five percent. Even when detected early, five year survival only reaches 20 percent. To learn more about pancreatic cancer, click here.

The result of the Phase II trial raise some interesting points of further treatment research. Firstly, it indicates a rare instance in which the highly specialized PARP inhibitors, which are used almost exclusively for BRCA mutated breast cancer and ovarian cancer, demonstrate effectiveness in a different cancer type. In addition, the data raises further questions about the manner in which BRCA mutations can impact the outcome of treatments.

PARP inhibitors affect the activity of an enzyme that cells normally use to repair themselves. Cancer cells have exploited this mechanism in order to fix their own DNA, which allows them to continue growth and resist treatment.
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of pancreatic cancer patients (nine percent) have cancer that is linked to the BRCA mutation. This means that only a small percentage of patients will be able to respond to PARP inhibitors. However, these drugs could offer a last resort treatment for patients that are out of options.

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