A new drug has potential to cure pancreatic cancer, scientists claim.: Medication that attacks tumours could treat the disease that killed Alan Rickman and Patrick Swayze
A new drug has ‘potentially very promising’ results for pancreatic cancer, scientists claim.
Mice with the disease were cured after being given medication that uses their immune cells to attack tumours, with similar treatment being effective in children with leukaemia.
Pancreatic cancer affects around one in 71 people in the UK and 1.6 per cent in the US at some point in their lives.
Only 20 per cent live a year after diagnosis and just seven per cent survive five years. This is due to pancreatic cancer usually only being diagnosed once it has spread as a result of its vague symptoms, such as weight loss and abdominal pain.
Actors Alan Rickman and Patrick Swayze all lost their battles with the disease.
Study author Professor Nick Lemoine, from Barts Cancer Institute, told the Evening Standard: ‘We have achieved what appears to be cures in the animal models, but this still remains early days. So far, all the signals look really positive.
‘The news is that there is a potentially very promising therapy.’
The drug works by scientists taking immune cells, known as white blood cells, from mice and engineering them so they multiply before reinfusing them into the animals.
A virus is also put into the rodents that causes cancer to send out signals that make immune cells notice it.
The researchers hope the treatment could be trialed on human sufferers by 2020.
Pancreatic cancer UK has invested £500,000 into three years of research to double the disease’s five-year survival rate.
Things you need to know about pancreatic cancer
WHAT IS PANCREATIC CANCER?
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal forms of the disease.
Around 95 percent of people who contract it die from it.
Joan Crawford, Patrick Swayze and Luciano Pavarotti all died of pancreatic cancer.
It is the fourth-leading killer in the United States.
Around 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the UK, and 50,000 in the US.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE?
It is caused by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas – a large gland in the digestive system.
WHO HAS THE HIGHEST RISK?
Most cases (90 percent) are in people over the age of 55.
Around half of all new cases occur in people aged 75 or older.
One in 10 cases are attributed to genetics.
Other causes include age, smoking and other health conditions, including diabetes.
WHY IS IT SO LETHAL?
There is no screening method for pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer typically does not show symptoms in the early stages, when it would be more manageable.
Sufferers tend to start developing the tell-tale signs – jaundice and abdominal pain – around stage 3 or 4, when it has likely already spread to other organs.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS?
The only effective treatment is removal of the pancreas.
This proves largely ineffective for those whose cancer has spread to other organs.
In those cases, palliative care is advised to ease their pain at the end of their life.
Cannabis drug may help pancreatic-cancer patients live almost three times longer
This comes after research released earlier this month suggested a supplement derived from cannabis could boost survival in pancreatic cancer patients by almost three times.
Mice with the condition live longer when they are given the marijuana compound cannabidiol (CBD) alongside a common chemotherapy drug, a UK study found today.
CBD does not contain any THC, which is the psychoactive component of cannabis that makes users ‘high’.
Previous research suggest cannabis treats cancer by stopping cell division, preventing tumours forming blood vessels and killing cancerous cells.
Speaking of the results, study author Professor Marco Falasca, from Queen Mary University of London, said: ‘This is a remarkable result.
‘The life expectancy for pancreatic cancer patients has barely changed in the last 40 years because there are very few, and mostly only palliative care, treatments available.’
Medical cannabis will available on prescription in the UK after it was approved by the Government last week.
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