If you’re diagnosed with pancreatic cancer your prospects are bleak.
Only seven per cent of people diagnosed with the deadly disease survive for five years.
But an Australian team, led by scientists from UNSW, have uncovered a promising new approach to treating pancreatic cancer.
By targeting the tissue around the tumour, it makes it ‘softer’ and more responsive to chemotherapy.
Pancreatic tumours, like all solid tumours, exist within a complex ‘nest’ of surrounding cells, blood vessels and other structures, known as the stroma.
Interactions between cancer cells and the surrounding stroma are important for tumour survival and progression.
Using a drug called Fasudil, already used to treat stroke patients, the researchers took aim at the stroma rather than at the tumour itself.
“Our team, with pancreatic researchers around the world, is inspired by an international goal to double pancreatic cancer survival by 2020 – so it’s particularly exciting that we have been able to achieve this in preclinical models,” said Dr Paul Timpson, who co-led the study.
Dr Marina Pajic, who also co-led the study, said the research had significant clinical potential.
“Fasudil is already in clinical use as a treatment for stroke in Japan and is off-patent – so there is strong potential to repurpose it for the treatment of pancreatic cancer,” she said.
The research team now aims to translate these findings into an early-stage clinical study to examine the safety of this new “priming” approach.
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