Ultrasound Could Better Treat Pancreatic Cancer


Pancreatic cancer can present numerous problems for medical professionals. To start, this cancer can be difficult to detect and diagnose in early stages. By the time pancreatic cancer progresses, it is difficult to treat. The tumors are hard to penetrate, extremely dense, and prone to harming T-cells and lymphocytes within the body. However, shares Medical XPress, Tanya Khoklova believes that she has found a potential solution for penetrating and addressing pancreatic tumors: ultrasound.


So why are pancreatic tumors so difficult to treat? First off, the tumors create collagen fibers around the tumor’s exterior to prevent against attacks or damage. Next, the tumor density presses against blood vessels and other bodily structures. Lastly, the tumors are able to damage or kill immune cells which respond to the cancer. Because of this, the survival rate for pancreatic tumors which metastasize and spread is only around 3%.

However, Tanya Khoklova questioned whether a new therapeutic technique could increase the efficacy of fighting these tumors. Which technique? Ultrasound. Within the Applied Physics lab at the University of Washington, Khoklova and her research team evaluated the efficacy of ultrasound on mice models of pancreatic cancer.

The researchers used a specialized ultrasound device to send a focused beam of pressure towards the pancreatic tumor. As the ultrasound waves hit and shake the tumor, cracks and fissures appear. These help in regards to treatment; for example, chemotherapy would have more direct access to the tumor. These fissures also help immune cells, such as T-cells, better find and attack cancer cells.

More research is needed to hone this technique. However, Khoklova hopes that, within the next few years, she will be able to bring this technology to clinical studies and improve care for patients with pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer

Normally, your pancreas plays a role in digestion (through enzymes) and blood sugar management (through hormones). However, pancreatic cancer can cause a variety of health issues, and stop these processes from working. There are different forms of pancreatic cancer. For example, exocrine pancreatic cancer, the most common form, begins in the cells which line the pancreatic ducts. Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, alternately, are a rare form beginning in hormone-producing cells. Risk factors include age (45+), being obese, smoking cigarettes, being male, or having a family history of pancreatic cancer. Symptoms include:

  • Unintended weight loss
  • Appetite loss
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain which radiates to the back
  • Diabetes (worsening or newly onset)
  • Dark urine and pale stools
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes)
  • Blood clots
  • Bowel obstructions

Learn more about pancreatic cancer here.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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