Dual Therapies for Treating Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer lab models respond to combination therapy

(RxWiki News) Currently, there's only one chemotherapy agent being used to treat pancreatic cancer. Gemzar (gemcitabine) works for some patients, but not others.

New research suggests that combining therapies may be the key to treating this difficult disease.

Scientists have found, at least in laboratory experiments, that a combination of two chemotherapy agents - Abraxane (nab-paclitaxel) and Gemzar - may be a more effective option for pancreatic cancer than Gemzar alone.

"Ask your oncologist about combination therapies."

Researchers at the University of Cambridge used a laboratory model to test the dual approach against pancreatic cancer, one of the most difficult cancers to treat.

"The combination has shown promise in an early clinical trial, and clinical results from a pivotal phase III trial will be reported in 2013," said David Tuveson, MD, PhD, a professor of pancreatic cancer medicine at the University of Cambridge.

"However, we know very little about the mechanism of action because tumor samples have been so small."

The combination therapy worked because it increased the stability of gemcitabine, though the mechanisms behind this are not yet fully understood. Further study is needed to test its effectiveness and best ways to administer the drugs.

“Nab-paclitaxel in combination with gemcitabine may prove to be a very effective regimen in the treatment of pancreatic cancer," James Farrell, MD, told dailyRx.

"This study by Tuveson, et al., provides a possible explanation and an improved rationale for how to administer both these drugs,” said Dr. Farrell, director of the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center Endoscopic Ultrasound Division of Digestive Diseases.

This study was published February 28, 2012 in Cancer Discovery.

This research was supported by the University of Cambridge and Cancer Research UK, The Li Ka Shing Foundation, Hutchison  Whampoa Limited, and the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical  Research Centre. 

No potential conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
March 1, 2012