By the time doctors feel the need to treat pancreatic cancer, the cancer has typically spread and metastasized.
But a study published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine reported that some mice injected with a drug promising to increase the effectiveness of existing chemotherapy, showed an almost immediate decline in the cancer, and did not experience any secondary tumors.
In the trial, mice received either an experimental drug or a placebo. But those treated with the experimental drug showed a significant reduction in the tumor size.
Pancreatic cancer is deadly, with only 10 to 15 percent of patients surviving for five years after diagnosis. If they do, their quality of life typically declines substantially, with symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, weight loss and loss of appetite.
Because drugs originally intended to cure cancer are relatively complex and require an extensive training and testing period, pancreatic cancer treatment typically starts with surgery followed by chemotherapy to kill off cancer cells. That’s followed by additional drugs used to promote a patient’s immune system to target the remaining cancer cells.
The new study found that some mice given the experimental drug had at least one other tumor removed as a result of the treatment. But those treated with the placebo had no secondary tumors at all.