June 14, 2016
Scientists are working on new therapies of pancreatic cancer. This is one of the deadliest cancers that impacts both men and women.
This is a disease that usually produces no symptoms at all until it’s in advanced stages. The only chance for a cure is with surgery, but most people aren’t candidates for surgery because the tumors that are relocated in the pancreas have spread. Most people that do have surgery will relapse and die from the disease.
In the past 20 years the FDA have approved three treatments for pancreatic cancer so patients can live longer. They are the drugs erlotinib in combination with gemcitabine, nab-paclitaxel in combination with gemcitabine, and plain gemcitabine
Abhilasha Nair, M.D., is an oncologist for the FDA who works on cancers of the colon, stomach, and digestive system. He says that the cancer starts in the pancreatic ducts. The KRAS gene found in tumor samples is mutated when examines in patients with pancreatic cancers.
Evasive and Deadly
The fourth leading cause of death in the United States is pancreatic cancer. On a yearly basis about 46,420 people are diagnosed with it and 39,590 die of pancreatic cancer according to the national Cancer Institute.
The cancer accounts for less than 3 percent of all new cancer diagnosis each year, but it’s deadly and aggressive. The survival rate after 5 years is only about 5%. If it’s not treated, a patient can die quickly. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are the common options for treatments.
Jaundice, back pain, and unexplained weight loss are the symptoms that bring patients to a doctor’s office. Worsening diabetes, onset diabetes, vomiting, nausea, weakness, changes in appetite, and tiredness are other symptoms.
Targeting the Mutations
Scientists are looking at risk factors for pancreatic cancer. They look at pancreatitis, which is chronic inflammation of the pancreas as well as smoking. Pancreatitis causes chronic pain, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and loss of weight. They also look at genetic changes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, and longstanding diabetes. They also examine Lynch syndrome which is an inherited syndrome that increases risk for various cancers.
Scientists are working on drugs that target the KRAS mutation which is found in pancreatic tumors. KRAS is very evasive so finding the right drug to target the mutation would be a breakthrough in the treatment. More needs to be learned about the mutation so it can be overcome. Scientists are looking at the cells deep in tumors to see why pancreatic cancer is so resistant to chemotherapy drugs.