Skip Content

Stroke drug boosts pancreatic cancer survival in mice

7 April 2017

A drug that is already used to treat stroke can significantly prolong the survival of mice with pancreatic cancer, according to new research.

Treatment of pancreatic cancer with traditional chemotherapy drugs is not particularly effective, because pancreatic tumours develop a thick, fibrous coating called the stroma - made up of connective tissue, blood vessels and immune cells – which makes it difficult for the drugs to penetrate the tumour.

However, a team at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia, has shown that the stroke drug fasudil can weaken this stroma, making it easier for chemotherapy drugs to enter the tumour.

They showed that in mice with pancreatic cancer who were treated with fasudil three days before standard chemotherapy, average  survival time increased by 47 per cent.  

If this benefit translated to humans, it would increase average survival from 9 to 13 months. Speaking to the New Scientist, lead researcher Paul Timpson said: “It doesn’t sound like much, but because the baseline success for pancreatic cancer treatments is so low, any improvement is fantastic.”

Large-scale studies in humans have already confirmed the safety of fasudil, which is used to keep the blood vessels open in the brains of stroke patients. The drug is currently only used to treat patients in Asia, but it is no longer covered by a patent, which means that can be produced cheaply.

The team is now looking at trialling the drug in combination with chemotherapy in people with pancreatic cancer.

The study is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, reference  DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aai8504 

< Back