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New double drug treatment shows promise for pancreatic cancer therapy

20 February 2012

Researchers at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute have discovered pancreatic cancer cells can be destroyed by combining two drugs. This gives hope that more effective treatments can be developed to combat the disease.

Researchers at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute have discovered pancreatic cancer cells can be destroyed by combining two drugs. This gives hope that more effective treatments can be developed to combat the disease.

The research uncovered the multiplying effect of drugs when mice with tumours were treated. When the common drug gemcitabine was administered with and experimental drug known as MRK003, cancer cells were killed more effectively than if each drug was used on its own.

Pancreatic cancer cells are able to grow due to the supply of blood vessels and nutrients provided by a cell signalling pathway called Notch. The MRK003 drug acts by blocking this pathway - and when used in conjunction with gemcitabine - it improves gemcitabine’s destruction of tumours.

Professor David Tuveson who published the research in the Journal of Experimental Medicine said: "We've discovered why these two drugs together set off a domino effect of molecular activity to switch off cell survival processes and destroy pancreatic cancer cells."

A clinical trial led by Duncan Jodrell, Professor of Cancer Therapeutics at the University of Cambridge, is underway. He said: "We're delighted that the results of this important research are now being evaluated in a clinical trial, to test whether this might be a new treatment approach for patients with pancreatic cancer, although it will be some time before we're able to say how successful this will be in patients."

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