In this week’s post I’d like to tell you about some of the areas of research we’re working on to improve our ability to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer. As many of you are aware, pancreatic cancer is a common and very aggressive cancer, and there are several reasons why we have a difficult time treating it: one issue is that pancreatic cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms until it is quite advanced. Another issue is that it tends to be very resistant to most types of chemotherapy.
One of the main areas of research in pancreatic cancer involves trying to better understand the biology of pancreatic cancer cells; specifically, the genetic changes that lead to development and growth. A better understanding of these changes is crucial, as it will aid us in finding abnormalities present in the cancer cells. These abnormalities, known as mutations, can then be targeted by drugs that attack the cancer cells without affecting the normal cells and have fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy.
The use of this of this treatment, known as targeted therapy, has been successful in many other cancer types. Most recently, it has been shown to work in metastatic melanoma, another aggressive cancer that is also resistant to most traditional chemotherapy drugs.
In addition to using genetic information to find better treatments, our group is working on improving our ability to detect these cancers at an earlier stage. This would allow more of these cancers to be treated with surgery.
These are just some of the areas we’re working on at the BC Cancer Agency. Next week I’ll describe more cutting-edge research, including the use of nanotechnology!