Hitting the Target in Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest to treat. However, three independent studies suggest a way.

Pancreatic cancer

Researchers are conducting clinical trials that use two drugs in tandem to thwart a mutated gene KRAS, that drives tumor growth in 95% of patients with pancreatic cancer.

KRAS is one of the most elusive targets in cancer research. This is because the KRAS protein lacks places where a small-molecule drug can bind and impair its function.

Mutant KRAS produce continuous growth signals, passed from one protein to the next, that results in a chain reaction called a signaling pathway. Over six of these pathways stem from KRAS. If one is impaired, the others can pick up the slack.

Researchers found that by eliminating the autophagy pathway that provides energy for the cancer cells at the same time that another drug indirectly targets KRAS, they can shrink pancreatic cancer tumors in mice. This is huge because the KRAS gene is mutated in 30% of all cancers, including some types of colorectal and lung cancer.

One clinical trial to explore this treatment is already enrolling participants. A second is expected to launch in the near future.

For more information, see National Cancer Institute http://www.NationalCancerInstitute.org


Stand Up to Cancer

An organization called Stand Up to Cancer funds and develops the newest and most promising cancer treatments. It informs cancer patients of clinical trials for which they may qualify.

pills an syringe

Clinical trials are conducted all over the world and with different types of treatments, including chemotherapy, targeted therapy, cancer vaccines, immunotherapy, epigenetics, and combination treatments. When a drug shows promise, clinical trials must be performed to discover its effectiveness. Ultimately, the FDA approves drugs only after rigorous testing.

A cancer patient who participates in a clinical trial will never get a placebo but some form of effective drug. Patients are rigorously monitored by oncologists through a variety of tests. A committee called the Institutional Review Board protects the interests of patients who participate in the trial. This board operates independently of the organization which is funding the study. IRBs do many things, but a main focus of their work is to protect the rights and welfare of participants. If they have any questions or concerns about a patient’s safety, they can mandate changes to how the study is designed.

I was eager to participate in a trial my oncologist was heading. It involved three different immunology drugs. The goal was to discover whether the drugs working together would be more effective than any of them working alone. In my case, the doctors discovered through extensive testing (every dang week) that the drugs had affected my liver and sodium levels. I was dropped from the study. Ironically, my oncologist, who was directing the study, has no access to those test results. Patients aren’t matched to specific tests in order to maintain patient privacy.

My brother-in-law in the 80s participated in a trial for the drug interleukin-2 which is now used for treatment. His melanoma disappeared, and he was cancer free for twenty years. Unfortunately, the other participants died. A clinical trial does not guarantee total eradication of the disease or even that the drugs used will be effective since the drugs are in the experimental stages of development.

If you’re interested in knowing more about clinical trials, check out http://www.standuptocancer.org.