Could This Combination Treatment be a Breakthrough for Pancreatic Cancer?

According to a story from EurekAlert!, a team of scientists affiliated with the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have been conducting research that has revealed a new potential therapeutic approach for pancreatic cancer. This type of cancer is one of the most lethal and is notorious for its resistance to treatment and its tendency to relapse. The therapy could involve a combination treatment of two different inhibitor drugs that would affect the activity of certain pathways that pancreatic cancer is known to use to propagate itself and resist treatment.

About Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most dangerous forms of cancer. The disease affects the pancreas, which is a glandular organ that is situated behind the stomach. Part of the reason that pancreatic cancer is so dangerous is that it rarely produces noticeable symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage and begun to spread. However, even when detected earlier, it is difficult to treat effectively. Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include being male, old age, African-American ancestry, family history, smoking, obesity, diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, and a diet heavy in red meat, processed meat, or meat cooked at very high temperatures. Symptoms include depression, upper abdominal pain, jaundice, diabetes, constipation, weight loss, and appetite loss. Treatment approaches for this cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Even with heavy treatment, pancreatic cancer almost always returns. The five year survival rate is just five percent. To learn more about pancreatic cancer, click here.

About The Treatment

The combination approach that the scientists have found starts with a drug that is already in use called chloroquine. This medication is commonly used to treat malaria. The researchers combined with drug with 500 other inhibitor-type drugs to see if any combination would have a synergistic effect. When drugs have a synergistic effect, it means that the impact produced by the combination of drugs is greater, or even entirely different, than when the drugs are used independently of one another.

Prior studies have shown that pancreatic tumor cells rely on the lysosome pathway to survive. It normally facilitates a process in which a cell recycles some of its own components in order to provide itself with energy. Cancers cells that had been treated with chloroquine were then treated with a replication stress response inhibitor. This second drug reduced the production of aspartate, an amino acid that plays a role in DNA production and repair. This is another mechanism that pancreatic cancer cells use.

While more research will be necessary, the combination appeared effective in pancreatic cancer cells and in a mouse model of the disease.

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