Pancreatic cancer was responsible for 44,000 deaths in the United States in 2018, according to the academic journal Nature Medicine. Finding treatment for this cancer has been difficult over the years, however Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah may show some promise. Researchers have found some positive results combining two drugs to help treat pancreatic cancer.
Fighting the mutated cancer-causing gene
According to Nature Medicine, The Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah was working to tackle the mutational activation of KRAS, which is the genetic driver of pancreatic cancer. KRAS is a oncoprotein, which is a protein encoded by an oncogene that can cause the modification of a cell and turn it into a tumor cell. According to the University of Utah researchers, they have discovered a combination drug therapy that may fight the disease by targeting the parts that help the KRAS-dependent metabolic functions. The support of increased energy given to the tumor cells will cause it to mutate.
The combination therapy uses two drugs, which are the autophagy inhibitor hydroxychloroquine and gemcitabine plus nab-paclitaxel. This new drug is managed through pills that have to be taken orally. The chemotherapy drug gemcitabine has been a standard initial treatment for patients with pancreatic cancer for more than 15 years, states the National Cancer Institute.
According to Medical Xpress, a website from the Science X information and news network, when KRAS is mutated in the body, it sends signals to endorse abnormal cell division and growth in cancer cells. As a result, tumors grow out of control. At the same time, like all cells, pancreatic cancer cells must also recycle their components for new growth. This function is called autophagy.
The new HCI study approach was to simultaneously target both abnormal KRAS signaling and the autophagy process. The research has been done in mouse models and has shown promising results.
“In our paper, we show the response of a pancreatic cancer patient who had received surgery and multiple lines of chemotherapy prior to this combination,” said Kinsey, who was the patient’s physician. “This patient, who has since succumbed to the disease, nevertheless had a remarkable response to these drugs for several months. We need to carefully evaluate this new combination therapy in the context of clinical trials to better understand if good responses might be seen in multiple patients. We also need to identify the specific features of any patient who may benefit, before any recommendation can be made about use on a larger scale.”
These preliminary findings are currently being rigorously scrutinized in clinical trials to detect and understand whether the combination of these drugs is safe and effective for pancreatic cancer patients.