New York, Sep 25 : Researchers have developed a new drug that can prevent the most common type of pancreatic cancer from growing and spreading.
The study, led by a team from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California, demonstrated in mice that the drug, called Metavert, may prevent patients from developing resistance to currently used pancreatic cancer chemotherapies.
"This is an exciting step toward improving survival rates in pancreatic cancer patients," said lead author Mouad Edderkaoui, Assistant Professor at Cedars-Sinai.
"If the results are confirmed in humans, we could have a drug with the potential to significantly extend the lives of patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which is very difficult to treat," Edderkaoui added.
Ninety-five per cent of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed with PDAC, which develops from cells lining small tubes in the pancreas.
PDAC can be difficult to treat because the cancer cells prompt normal cells that reside in the pancreas -- stellate cells -- to produce pancreatic scar tissue.
Scar tissue makes it difficult for chemotherapy agents and blood to enter the pancreas.
The cancer and stellate cell interaction also creates an environment that stimulates local tumour growth and cancer spread to distant sites in the body, the researchers noted.
Additionally, the activity levels of certain enzymes rev up, fuelling resistance to cancer treatments.
For the study, published in the journal Gastroenterology, the team designed and synthesised new chemicals that inhibit cancer cell activity over a four-year period.
They discovered that Metavert blocked drug resistance and also significantly boosted the positive effects of radiation and two chemotherapy agents commonly used in humans.
In one of the mouse studies, Metavert increased the survival rate by about 50 per cent.
The researchers currently are developing a version of the drug to test on humans.