Posted by: Kathy | October 9, 2009

News: A New Treatment for Pancreatic Cancer

There are times when I want to blog but have no idea what to write about. Too many thoughts floating around in my head and I’m just not sure what I should write about. After my mom died, I decided that I wanted to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer. But how? My husband came up with the idea of posting about medical news in pancreatic cancer.

I found an interesting article about the use of an enzyme called TAK-1 (Transforming Growth Factor beta-Activated Kinase-1) in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Research about this enzyme was presented at ECCO 15 – ESMO 34, Europe’s largest cancer congress, on September 24th in Berlin.

Pancreatic cancer is resistant to all anti-cancer drugs, but Dr. Davide Melisi and colleagues found that preventing the action of TAK-1  made pancreatic cancer cells sensitive to chemotherapy. This finding could lead to the development of new drugs to fight this horrible disease.

These researchers developed a drug that was capable of inhibiting TAK-1, and then tested the activity of the TAK-1 inhibitor: (1) alone and in combination with the anti-cancer drugs gemcitabine, oxaliplatin, and SN-38 (a metabolite of the anti-cancer drug irinotecan) in cell lines; and (2) in combination with gemcitabine against pancreatic cancer in mice. The researchers reported the following results:

“The use of this TAK-1 inhibitor increased the sensitivity of pancreatic cells to all three chemotherapeutic drugs. By combining it with classic anti-cancer drugs, we were able to use doses of drugs up to 70 times lower in comparison with the control to kill the same number of cancer cells. In mice, we were able to reduce significantly the tumour volume, to prolong the mice survival, and to reduce the toxicity by combining the TAK-1 inhibitor with very low doses of a classic chemotherapeutic drug, gemcitabine, that would have been ineffective otherwise,” said Dr Melisi.

The use of gemcitabine on its own against the cancer in mice was ineffective because of the drug resistant nature of the disease. However, once it was combined with the TAK-1 inhibitor, Dr Melisi and his colleagues saw a 78% reduction in tumour volumes. “The median average survival for the control, TAK-1 inhibitor, gemcitabine on its own, or TAK-1 inhibitor combined with gemcitabine was 68, 87, 82 and 122 days respectively,” he said.

“Our main goal is to translate this combination approach from the bench to the bedside, conducting a clinical trial that could demonstrate the safety of this TAK-1 inhibitor in combination with gemcitabine, and its efficacy, in pancreatic cancer patients.”

If these findings could eventually be duplicated in humans, this would be an incredible breakthrough in the treatment of pancreatic cancer and more people could win the fight against this deadly disease.

For more information go to: http://www.ecco-org.eu/Conferences-and-Events/ECCO-15-ESMO-34/Press-Release/List-of-press-releases/Pancreatic-cancer/page.aspx/1833.

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