Health In Focus
  • Pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat due to the stroma surrounding the cancer that reduces the penetration of chemotherapy drugs
  • 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

A 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. Australian scientists used this approach in their experiments on pancreatic cancer. Their work was published in Science Translational Medicine.

Pancreatic cancer remains one of the most difficult cancers to treat, with a 5-year survival rate of only 7%. Researchers 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.
New Treatment Could Benefit Pancreatic Cancer Prognosis

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.

Researchers from 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. The 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 cancer patients.

Reference :
  1. 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
Source: Medindia

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