August 31 2009
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Scientists are investigating why chemotherapy often proves ineffective in patients suffering from pancreatic cancer.
In a recent study, published in the journal Science, researchers from Cancer Research UK may have uncovered the answer. The researchers studied the tumors of mice genetically engineered to develop prostate cancer, finding that the tumors had only a sparse network of blood vessels — in contrast to most tumors, which need a steady supply of blood for their growth and survival. When the researchers examined human prostate cancer tumors, they saw the same pattern.
The researchers therefore hypothesized that chemotherapy drugs might have trouble reaching pancreatic tumors to affect them. The paucity of blood vessels in pancreatic tumors also suggests that these tumors are less dependent on a large blood supply. This, in turn, could explain why VEGF inhibitors, chemotherapy drugs that seek to cut off blood to tumors, so often prove ineffective in treating pancreatic cancer.
There are 230,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer each year, including 37,000 in the United States and 7,600 in the United Kingdom. It is among the most lethal forms of cancer, due to its tendency to spread quickly. Because the cancer is often detected only in an advanced stage, surgical removal is often impossible. Only three percent of pancreatic cancer patients are still alive five years after diagnosis
The researchers in the current study found, however, that pancreatic tumors responded significantly better to chemotherapy when the drug Gemzar was combined with the experimental drug IPI-926, manufactured by Infinity Pharmaceuticals.
“We’re extremely excited by these results as they may help explain the disappointing response that many pancreatic cancer patients receive from chemotherapy drugs,” researcher David Tuveson said. “But these are early days and we need to show this approach is safe to use in humans before we can consider adding the new compound to cancer treatments.”