A team of scientists has just demonstrated the effectiveness of a treatment against one of the most lethal diseases that affects humans: pancreatic cancer.
Although it barely represents 3% of all diagnoses, doctors consider it to be the most aggressive type of cancer, with a 99% mortality rate. And the percentage of those affected has increased in the last decade.
Researchers at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in San Diego, California (United States) found that a combination of two anticancer compounds that are used today to treat certain leukemias and tumors such as melanoma may be key to treating this type of cancer.RELATED
According to their findings, those two medications together "can reduce tumors."
The scientists first verified that the treatment successfully reduced pancreatic tumors in mice, and they will support their findings with clinical trials, as read in the study they published in the medical journal Nature Cell Biology.
The medications in question are L-asparaginase – an enzyme with therapeutic potential used to fight leukemia – and an inhibitor of MEK (a type of protein) that leaves pancreatic tumors without the nutrients they need to grow and prevents them from adapting to survive
That way, scientists "starve" cancer cells.
Some proteins leave tumors without key nutrients to grow.
"Without effective treatment"
The versions of both compounds are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
"The sad reality is that today pancreatic cancer therapy is behind (other therapies) because there is no effective treatment for these tumors," said Ze'ev Ronai, professor of the Tumor Initiation and Maintenance Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys and lead author of the study.
The disease is also difficult to diagnose and is usually detected when it is already in an advanced state.
A quarter of patients die a month after being diagnosed and the rest within a year.
"Our study identifies a possible combined treatment that can be tested immediately against these aggressive tumors."
"We are already meeting with oncologists from the Oregon University of Science and Health (USA) to discuss how to advance this discovery in clinical evaluation," he added.
Pancreatic cancer is usually found late.
"It is clear that we will not find a magic wand that cures cancer," said Rosalie C. Sears of the Oregon University of Science and Health. "We will need several medications that attack multiple vulnerabilities."
"This study identifies a promising dual treatment for pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly."
"I look forward to seeing these drugs tested in patients," said Sears, who specializes in molecular genetics and is co-director of the Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Health.
Scientists hope to have paved the way for that clinical trial in humans to occur as soon as possible.
The experiment showed that this treatment would not only shrink the size of tumors in pancreatic cancer, but also melanomas.
But the researchers focused their work on pancreatic cancer due to the lack of effective therapies that exist.
Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer
Jaundice: yellowing of the skin that appears when the tumor originates in the head of the pancreas and causes compression of the bile duct.
Impaired blood glucose: the pancreas has the function of generating insulin that will control the level of blood glucose. If the tumor disrupts this function, decompensations will occur.
Heavy digestions: abdominal pain originating in the stomach area and radiating to the back or in the form of a belt to the sides.
Weight loss: occurs in a few months. You also lose your appetite.
Source: Foundation for Excellence and Quality of Oncology (ECO), Spain. (I)