Cancer patients and their families are always hoping for cutting edge innovation that might be able to mitigate symptoms or cure a disease. With pancreatic cancer, the need for novel diagnostic and treatment methods is even more pertinent because of its severity.
According to John Hopkins University, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer in the United States, with only a 5% five-year survival rate. Since it the cancer is hard to diagnose and the pancreas is situated next to so many vital organs, 80% of newly diagnosed cases already include metastasis.
Treatment of cancer depends on several factors, mostly tumor size and extant of metastasis. Most treatments for pancreatic cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, is looking towards more clinical vaccine trials. The vaccines work by introducing cancer cell-specific compounds that the body will recognize as foreign. Antibodies in the body attach to these molecules, signalling immune cells to remove infected cells and recognize others. Despite new clinical trials, the FDA has not yet approved any vaccine therapies.
In a recent study mentioned in Forbes, researched used attenuated Listeria bacteria radiated with 188Rhenium, a less toxic radiation therapy, to target pancreatic cancer cells in mice. Since Listeria naturally infect pancreatic cells, the bacteria naturally congregate near the target areas of treatment to deliver the radiation doses.
Since the immune system is suppressed near a tumor, the bacteria were able to congregate and deliver treatment. Given the similarities in mice and human biology, this scenario could most likely be repeated in clinical trials.
Information from American Cancer Society lists many recent targeted drug therapies designed to destroy cancerous cells with as minimal harm to surrounding tissues as possible. Many of these are designed to target molecules that allow cancer cells to grow and proliferate, such as the drug Tarceva® (erlotinib) which targets growth receptors on the cell surface.
Despite the new clinical trials, lab studies and research into novel treatments which provide hope to men and women who receive this diagnosis, the reality of pancreatic cancer is that these improvements come too late for most.