Two therapy types combined provide hope in the fight against pancreatic cancer.
Survival rates of pancreatic cancer remain the lowest of all cancer types worldwide and have not improved in 50 years. This is due to the aggressive nature of the disease and the fact that it is often diagnosed when it is too late.
Currently, the only cure for pancreatic cancer is surgery which can only be done in stage one of the disease before it has spread beyond the pancreas. Unfortunately, many cases are diagnosed in the later stages when surgery is not possible and can only be treated by chemotherapy to make the patient comfortable.
However, this year, a research team from the University of Colorado in the USA has made a breakthrough in the fight against pancreatic cancer. Research combining two different cancer therapies has shown early promise, providing hope and paving the way for future research that could improve survival rates.
The treatment regimen combines two therapy types: immunotherapy and radiotherapy. Immunotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that helps the body’s immune system fight the cancer. Radiotherapy deploys high doses of radiation to destroy the cancer cells and tumours.
Pancreatic cancer does not usually respond well to immunotherapy, but a new type of antibody treatment boosted the number of immune cells to fight the cancerous ones. This effect was magnified when used in combination with radiotherapy, allowing them to focus on destroying the cancerous cells within the immune system.
It is important to note that this approach was especially effective throughout the body. This is crucial for cancers that have spread, which is often the case for pancreatic cancer, as pancreatic cancer is often detected when it has spread beyond the pancreas. Researchers also state that the immune system would be able to elicit the same response, should the cancer return.
This finding could soon change the way that doctors treat pancreatic cancer. However, this research was conducted using animals, so results should be interpreted with caution. Researchers have reported that they hope to conduct clinical trials using this technique. Whilst similar research using immunotherapy is underway in Europe, this is the first study to combine immunotherapy and radiotherapy, which focused on pancreatic tumours.
Sana Karam, a cancer specialist working on this study said: “I’ve never been more hopeful about the possibility of improving the survival rate for this disease… in just one radiation session, we saw a remarkable immune response that could change how we treat pancreatic cancer patients.”
This study is just one example of the research that pancreatic cancer charities could fund, taking us one step closer to finding a cure for pancreatic cancer, thus improving survival rates.