Pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest to treat. However, three independent studies suggest a way.
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
Although pancreatic cancer is a difficult one, there are treatment options:
If the cancer is detected early, surgery can remove all or part of the pancreas depending on the tumor’s size and location. Laparoscopy of the abdomen can determine if cancer has spread. If it has, surgery is generally not recommended.
For operable cancers located in the head of the pancreas, the doctor may perform a Whipple procedure which removes the head and part of the small intestine.
If the cancer is located in the tail of the pancreas, the surgeon will remove the tail and body of the pancreas as well as the spleen.
If the cancer has spread throughout the pancreas, it will require removal of the entire pancreas, part of the small intestine, a portion of the stomach, the common bile duct, the gallbladder, and the spleen.
There are a number of radiation therapies available. Traditional radiation is the most common. Others such as Cyberknife or Proton Beam Therapy may not be appropriate for every person.
Chemotherapy is also used to treat pancreatic cancer. First-line chemotherapy is the first drug used. If it proves to be ineffective, a second drug may be tried. Off-label use refers to treatment by a drug not specifically FDA approved for pancreatic cancer but which research shows may work.
Targeted therapy takes into account the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment to block the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Other options include immunotherapy and clinical trials.
Here are some unusual ways that organizations are raising money for cancer research:
Whoops! Bakery is dyeing all 21 flavors of its macarons pink from October 19 to 21. For each box of macarons sold that weekend (and all macarons sold online in October), Whoops! will donate $1 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Website is http://www.bywhoops.com.
And look in May for Speed Rack USA, the all-female speed-bartending competition. One hundred percent of proceeds from the events in various cities goes to breast education, prevention, and research. Website is http://www.speedrack.net.
Speaking of May, there is a month-long celebration of Gamay wine which raises money for pancreatic cancer research. Max Kuller began Ga May in 2015 as a tribute to his father, who passed away from pancreatic cancer. Restaurants, wine retailers, distributors, and vintners in the Washington DC area raised $15,000 in 2015 for the Lustgarten Foundation to Cure Pancreatic Cancer. Website is http://www.lustgarten.org.
Where did I learn this information? From Wine Enthusiast and Food Network magazines. Who knew?