New Treatment “A Ray Of Hope” for Patients With Pancreatic Cancer

Mar 4, 2019, 6:09 PM | Updated: 6:26 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — New research from Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City is giving new hope to patients with pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is very aggressive and very difficult to treat. Only seven percent of patients survive after five years.

A promising new treatment developed at HCI is giving patients new hope.

Gordon Chamberlain of Murray was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer five months ago.

“I was already stage four,” he said. “It had metastasized into my liver and lungs.”

The cancer was already spreading through his body. He was fatigued, jaundiced and had no appetite. Standard chemotherapy wasn’t working, and he felt terrible side effects.

Twenty-one days ago he found out he was eligible and enrolled in a clinical trial and started taking two medications by mouth.

“It was certainly a ray of hope because the basic chemotherapy was not going to work,” Chamberlain said.

More than 150 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every day — only 20 percent survive one year.

The disease is considered largely incurable because survival rates are so low.

“Pancreas cancer is a silent killer,” said Dr. Martin McMahon, an HCI Cancer Researcher and lead on the study. “Most of the patients who are diagnosed with the disease are diagnosed when the disease is already quite advanced. So you’re fighting a battle against a very aggressive, very malignant, very challenging disease.”

In research published today in Nature Medicine Dr. McMahon and Dr. Conan Kinsey, a HCI Physician-Scientist, shared a pancreatic cancer treatment that has already improved Chamberlain’s life, and extended the life of another patient.

The researchers combined two drugs, already FDA approved, to come up with a treatment that kills pancreatic cancer cells in the Petri dish, in mice, and in one patient, so far.

“We are very excited about it, and excited to see what the results are,” said Kinsey. “It may become eventually a treatment option for pancreatic cancer patients in the future.”

For Chamberlain, no more multi-hour chemo treatments at the hospital. The researchers say the toxic side effects seem to be much less than in standard chemotherapy.

“It has improved my quality of life a great deal,” said the patient.

He doesn’t feel wiped out, and his appetite is back.

“It’s given me a lot of hope for the future, at least in controlling the disease and giving the doctors time to find something that will actually cure it,” he said.

The first clinical trial is already underway with three patients enrolled. The researchers expect to include up to 12 patients in the first clinical trial. They are also exploring how the treatment may work on other cancers.

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