treatment that targets the stroma around a pancreatic cancer and makes blood
vessels leaky, thereby facilitating the entry of chemotherapy drugs into the
cancer cells, could help in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
- Pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat due to the
stroma surrounding the cancer that reduces the penetration of chemotherapy
- Fasudil targets the stroma and makes the blood vessels leaky,
thereby enhancing the entry of the chemotherapy drugs
- Further studies in humans with pancreatic cancer may
unveil a therapy that could improve outcomes in pancreatic cancer
scientists used this approach in their experiments on pancreatic cancer. Their
work was published in Science
Pancreatic cancer remains one of the most difficult
cancers to treat, with a 5-year survival rate of only 7%.
the world over are working on solutions to deal with the deadly cancer.
Pancreatic cancer affects the pancreas, a gland in the abdomen that secretes
pancreatic juice required for digestion, as well as insulin and glucagon, which
are required to control the glucose levels in the blood.
‘The prognosis of pancreatic cancer can improve if the tissues surrounding the cancer are targeted, thereby allowing chemotherapy drugs to enter the cancer.’
Pancreatic cancer is
treated with surgery, chemotherapy
and radiation. The late diagnosis
of the cancer often makes it difficult for a complete surgical removal. Another problem with pancreatic cancer is
that it is surrounded by tissues called stroma that make it impermeable to
chemotherapy drugs like gemcitabine and Abraxane (paclitaxel protein bound), commonly
used in its treatment.
Targeting this shell to allow the entry of
chemotherapy into cancer cells has been the focus of recent research.
Australia have tried out an approach in which the stroma is first attacked
using a drug called fasudil, a Rho-kinase inhibitor. Fasudil also made the
blood vessels surrounding the cancer cells leaky, thus allowing the entry of
chemotherapy drugs. The researchers
carried out their experiments on mouse models of pancreatic cancer.
mice were treated with fasudil for three days, followed by chemotherapy. The
researchers found that:
- The survival time of the mice with the cancers doubled
- The spread of cancer cells to other tissues like the
liver was reduced
- The benefit was noted in the cancer localized in the
pancreas as well as that which had spread to other sites
The researchers also
demonstrated that pancreatic cancers with a large amount of stroma or
surrounded by dense blood vessels were more likely to benefit from this
approach to treatment.
Fasudil is currently
used in Japan for the treatment of stroke. It could be a boon to people with
pancreatic cancer if the results of the study could be reproduced in pancreatic
- Vennin C et al. Transient tissue priming via ROCK inhibition uncouples pancreatic cancer progression, sensitivity to chemotherapy, and metastasis. Science Translational Medicine 2017: Vol. 9, Issue 384, eaai8504 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aai8504