Pancreatic and ovarian cancers both have low survival rates which is often because they diagnosed late. Scientists in Texas have been researching ways of treating these late stage diseases using advances in technology and experiments with mice, producing some interesting early results.
Immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer
The new treatment is a type of immunotherapy, which uses the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer. The research team developed an antibody (a type of protein that attaches to foreign cells in the body) that binds to the thick layer of cells surrounding pancreatic and ovarian tumours called the stroma.
The antibody works by preventing these cells producing a protein called MFAP5. When MFAP5 is produced in pancreatic and ovarian cancer it helps to trigger the formation of the stroma and new blood vessels to supply the tumour. Therefore, preventing its production means that the tumour is less supplied and protected. This makes treatments such as chemotherapy easier to deliver and more effective. It also slows down the growth and spread of the tumour. These two actions together have the potential to be beneficial for patients.
Next steps for the study
The research for this study was carried out in mice and there is a long way to go before the results could translate into a medication available to humans. However, researchers are confident that they can create a human antibody that produces the same effect and aim to start a phase one clinical trial in human patients next year.
Immunotherapy is still a new type of cancer treatment, researchers and doctors are still discovering how it may affect the body and the side effects it may cause. Some types of immunotherapy used to treat other cancers have had severe side effects and research is still being carried out into who is likely to be affected by these and why. Immunotherapy is a promising area of medicine and could have a positive effect on patients with late stage pancreatic and ovarian cancer but there is still a long way to go.
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Merkl, L. (2019). Scientists Develop Promising Drug for Treating Ovarian and Pancreatic Cancers. [online] Houstonmethodist.org. Available at: https://www.houstonmethodist.org/newsroom/scientists-develop-promising-drug-for-treating-ovarian-and-pancreatic-cancers/ [Accessed 23 Jul. 2019].
Yeung, T., Leung, C., Yip, K., Sheng, J., Vien, L., Bover, L., Birrer, M., Wong, S. and Mok, S. (2019). Anticancer immunotherapy by MFAP5 blockade inhibits fibrosis and enhances chemosensitivity in ovarian and pancreatic cancer. Clinical Cancer Research, [online] pp.clincanres.0187.2019. Available at: http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2019/07/20/1078-0432.CCR-19-0187.