Stopped in Early Stages by University of Oklahoma Scientists
‘This is one of the
most important studies in pancreatic cancer prevention’ – clinical
Jan. 11, 2011 –
The most dangerous of cancers – pancreatic – has been eliminated in a
research model by the use of an old treatment in a new way during the
early stage of the cancer. The researchers at the Peggy and Charles
Stephenson Oklahoma Cancer Center say the discovery has far-reaching
implications in chemoprevention for high-risk patients.
already has sparked a clinical trial in California, and the FDA-approved
drug, Gefitinib, should be in clinical trials at OU’s cancer center and
others nationwide in about a year.
funded by the National Cancer Institute, appears in the latest issue of
Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association
for Cancer Research.
C.V. Rao, Ph.D.,
and his team of researchers were able to show for the first time that a
drug used in current chemotherapy for later stages of pancreatic cancer
had a dramatic effect if used earlier.
With low doses
of Gefitinib, which has no known side effects at this level, scientists
were able to not only stop pancreatic cancer tumors from growing, but
after 41 weeks of treatment, the cancer was gone.
"This is one of
the most important studies in pancreatic cancer prevention,” Rao said.
"Pancreatic cancer is a poorly understood cancer and the focus has been
on treatment in the end stages. But, we found if you start early, there
will be a much greater benefit. Our goal is to block the spread of the
cancer. That is our best chance at beating this disease."
American Cancer Society's most recent estimates for pancreatic
cancer in the United States are for 2010:
● About 43,140 people
(21,370 men and 21,770 women) will be diagnosed with pancreatic
● About 36,800 people
(18,770 men and 18,030 women) will die of pancreatic cancer
past 15 to 25 years, rates of pancreatic cancer have dropped
slightly in men and women. Still, pancreatic cancer remains the
fourth leading cause of cancer death overall.
Read more below news story.
cancer center research team said the finding points to an effective way
to stop pancreatic cancer before it reaches later stages of development
where the survival rate drops below 6 percent.
pancreatic cancer is not identified until the later stages. However,
research is moving closer to the development of an early detection test
for pancreatic cancer. When that is in place, Oklahoma cancer center
researchers believe they now have a method to target the cancer before
Rao said OU
officials and researchers will meet with other centers, including M.D.
Anderson, whose specialists called the research "provocative," to
discuss a pilot study in early 2011. Researchers hope to begin a Phase
II clinical trial at the centers within 18 months. A Phase I trial is
not required since the drug already has approval for human use from the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
trials will focus on at-risk patients, particularly those with an
inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis. The drug also could
help other high risk populations, including patients with a family
history of pancreatic cancer and American Indian populations or others
with Type 2 diabetes.
by targeting signals of a gene that is among the first to mutate when
pancreatic cancer is present. By targeting the signal for tumor growth
expressed by the mutated gene, researchers were able to stop the
"This gene is
the key in 95 percent of cases of pancreatic cancer. It is our best
target," Rao said. "By targeting this gene, we can activate or
inactivate several other genes and processes down the line."
Rao said the
drug also could be effective in lung and colorectal cancer, but it is
not known if it would work as well as in pancreatic cancer. The OU
College of Pharmacy is assisting in the development of drugs and imaging
techniques needed to further test Gefitinib with patients.
Located at the
OU Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, the Peggy and Charles
Stephenson Oklahoma Cancer Center is Oklahoma’s only comprehensive
academic cancer center, with significant programs in prevention,
research, treatment and education. The center says it is working toward
a National Cancer Institute “designated cancer center” status, the
gold-standard of cancer research and treatment. More than 100
Ph.D.-level scientists are conducting innovative research at the center,
and patients from every county in Oklahoma are treated by one of the
largest oncology physicians groups in the state.
The pancreas is a gland behind your stomach and in front of your spine.
It produces juices that help break down food and hormones that help
control blood sugar levels.
Cancer of the pancreas is the
fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Some risk factors for
developing pancreatic cancer include
● Long-term diabetes
● Chronic pancreatitis
● Certain hereditary disorders
Pancreatic cancer is hard to catch
early. It doesn't cause symptoms right away. When you do get symptoms,
they are often vague or you may not notice them. They include yellowing
of the skin and eyes, pain in the abdomen and back, weight loss and
fatigue. Also, because the pancreas is hidden behind other organs,
health care providers cannot see or feel the tumors during routine
exams. Because it is often found late and it spreads quickly, pancreatic
cancer can be hard to treat. Possible treatments include surgery,
radiation and chemotherapy.