In this week’s blog posts, I’d like to discuss some of the exciting developments in new drug therapies for pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer has been one of the most difficult cancers to treat because it is difficult to detect early and is resistant to most chemotherapy drugs. Up until recently, very little progress had been made in finding new, effective therapies for pancreatic cancer.

But in the last several years there have been several major advances. First, it was discovered that a combination of chemotherapy drugs—known as FOLFIRINOX—works significantly better than the standard chemotherapy drug Gemcitabine for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Gemcitabine combined with a new drug called nab-Paclitaxel (Abraxane) was also shown to be more effective than Gemcitabine alone in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. 

These recent successes have been encouraging, but there is still a long way to go. Fortunately there are many new drugs being studied to try to improve the effects of these chemotherapies. One of the reasons that pancreatic cancer is thought to be resistant to therapy is because the cancer is surrounded by a protective barrier or “stroma” that prevents chemotherapy from reaching the cancer cells. Researchers at Pancreas Centre BC are focused on understanding the relationship between the cancer cells and the surrounding stroma and finding ways to disrupt this barrier to allow for chemotherapy drugs to reach the cancer cells.

In my next post I will explore the role of the immune system in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Dan

Medical Oncologist and Co-Director of Pancreas Centre BC