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Targeting Pancreatic Cancer Drug Resistance

Knocking down cancer cell survival signals increases the effectiveness of chemotherapy

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly and intractable forms of cancer, with a 5-year survival rate of only 6%. Novel therapies are urgently needed, as conventional and targeted approaches have not been successful and drug resistance is an increasing problem.

Previously it had been thought that poor penetration of the drugs into pancreas tumors was the main reason for treatment failure. But now a team of scientists led by Dr. David Tuveson, who is director of The Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, shows there are other factors at work, too.

In a paper published online on July 8, 2013, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Tuveson’s group demonstrates that there are survival factors inside the pancreatic tumor that provide “pro-life” signals that overcome the killing power of chemotherapeutic drugs.

“In addition to drug delivery being a problem, there is also this nurturing aspect that prevents cancer cells responding to the drugs,” said Dr. Tuveson, who also serves as director of research for The Lustgarten Foundation and professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

But he and his colleagues may have found a way to prevent this by using combinations of medicines along with chemotherapy.  By using both cancer-killing chemotherapies along with medicines that help to block the “survival” signals we may be able to potentially achieve better outcomes for patients in the future.

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