Harnessing the Body’s Own Immune System to Treat Pancreatic Cancer
Topic: Discoveries, Precision Medicine
With a five-year survival rate of only 11%, pancreatic cancer patients need more effective therapies. A new form of immunotherapy is showing promise, as it shrank metastases and stopped progression of one patient’s advanced pancreatic cancer after other forms of treatment had failed. The results were published in the June 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The experimental treatment involved engineering the patient’s own immune cells so that they would recognize and attack tumor cells expressing mutated KRAS protein. KRAS is mutated in 90% of pancreatic cancer patients and has been difficult to target. The paper reported on two patients treated with this approach. One patient did not benefit from the treatment, while the other showed significant improvement. It is not yet clear why the patients had different responses.
While this specific approach may not benefit all patients or even most patients, the research community is excited because it showed an effective immune response against mutant KRAS has the potential to control pancreatic cancer. The principal investigators are now recruiting patients for a phase I clinical trial to continue investigating the therapy and its ability to potentially help other patients.
As the world’s largest private funder of pancreatic cancer research, the Lustgarten Foundation funds research where creative risks yield high rewards to accelerate life-saving treatment options. A cornerstone of that research is our focus on supporting several efforts to induce immunity against pancreatic cancer, including efforts to drive immunity against mutant KRAS. We are currently funding multiple clinical trials using immunotherapy to harness the immune system in various ways for more effective treatments at all stages of pancreatic cancer, including a trial investigating prevention in healthy individuals at high risk.
Research produces real results and is the only way to fundamentally improve outcomes in pancreatic cancer and give patients what they want most—more time with their families and more hope for their futures. We are at the forefront of innovative advances never before possible and will continue to support immunotherapy research and other promising new trials to transform pancreatic cancer into a curable disease.