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  • Rethink for failed pancreatic cancer drug

    Author: AAP

LONDON, PAA - A failed pancreatic cancer treatment could be resurrected as a personalised medicine aimed at one in five patients with the disease, research suggests.

Previous trials showed that the drug rapamycin was ineffective as a general therapy for pancreatic cancer.

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But new evidence, published in the journal Gut, suggests it may work against a particular type of tumour caused by a fault in the PTEN gene, which influences cell growth.

When rapamycin was given to mice with PTEN-defective pancreatic tumours it stopped cancer cells from spreading. In some cases, the drug also caused tumours to shrink.

An analysis of human pancreatic tumour samples found that around one in five had the defective gene, suggesting that rapamycin might help a substantial number of patients.

Lead researcher Dr Jennifer Morton, from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute at the University of Glasgow, said: "This is incredibly important research showing for the first time that there's potential to tailor treatment to pancreatic cancer patients based on differences in their tumour's genetic fingerprint.

"Although it's at a very early stage, it's the first time we've been able to pinpoint a genetic fault in pancreatic cancers and match it up with a specific drug.

"While more research is needed to see if this approach could benefit patients, it's a crucial step forward in developing new treatments for this devastating disease, which has seen no survival improvements since the 70s."

Each year 8,800 people develop pancreatic cancer in the UK. The disease is often diagnosed late and is deadly. Just over 3 per cent of newly diagnosed patients will survive for five years or more.

Dr Kat Arney, science communications manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "This is a promising step towards being able to understand how pancreatic tumours differ from each other and how we can personalise treatments.

"It's a challenging disease where little progress has been made and that's why Cancer Research UK is making pancreatic cancer a research priority.

"Over the next few years we plan to more than double the amount we spend on pancreatic cancer research to accelerate research into understanding the biology of this disease and change the odds for patients."

Rapamycin, derived from a type of bacteria, is an immunosuppressant used to prevent the rejection of organ transplants.

It blocks a protein called "mammalian target of rapamycin" (mTOR) which helps control cell growth.

Research suggests that tumours caused by a faulty PTEN gene may be dependent on mTOR.

Copyright APP, 2014


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