Combining drugs boosts pancreatic cancer treatment

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An experimental combination of drugs has the ability to successfully destroy pancreatic cancer cells, researchers from Cancer Research UK have discover...

An experimental combination of drugs has the ability to successfully destroy pancreatic cancer cells, researchers from Cancer Research UK have discovered.

A team from the charity’s Cambridge Research Institute combined a chemotherapy drug – gemcitabine – with a drug which is currently only known as MRK003.

The result was that pancreatic cancer cells were destroyed, at a higher rate than they would have been had the individual drugs just been used on their own.

Patient trails are now underway of the revolutionary new treatment and so far results have been promising.

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MKR003 blocks Notch, an important cell signalling pathway in pancreatic cancer cells and endothelial cells that line the blood vessels.

It is these cells that supply cancerous tumours with the essential nutrients that they need to grow and develop.

When MKR003 is combined with gemcitabine it enhances the latter’s ability to destroy pancreatic cancer tumours.

“This research is a real example of how research taking place in the lab directly influences decisions made in the clinic to improve treatment for patients,” commented Professor David Tuveson, the study’s author.

“We’ve discovered why these two drugs together set off a domino effect of molecular activity to switch off cell survival processes and destroy pancreatic cancer cells.

Meanwhile, Professor Duncan Jodrell, who is leading the trial, added: “We’re delighted that the results of this important research are now being evaluated in a clinical trial, to test whether this might be a new treatment approach for patients with pancreatic cancer, although it will be some time before we’re able to say how successful this will be in patients.”

Despite his warnings, for the combination of drugs is showing potential as a treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Patient Richard Griffiths, who has been involved in the trial since May 2011, said: “After six cycles of treatment, a scan showed the tumours had reduced and so I have continued with the treatment. The trial gives you hope – I really feel I can do this with the science behind me.”

The findings of the trail so far have been published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. 

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