New approaches to pancreatic cancer

By Sheryl Kay • Published: August 21st, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

In the world of oncology it’s been called the “silent killer.” But new discoveries are now emerging almost daily that are helping to tackle pancreatic cancer.

More than thirty-five-thousand people in the United States will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, among them, actor Patrick Swayze [SWAY-ZEE]. Symptoms typically don’t appear until the disease is advanced, limiting treatment options.

Now researchers are looking beyond radiation and standard one-ingredient chemotherapy approaches.

At the Kimmel [KIM-uhl] Cancer Center in Philadelphia, recent lab studies have shown that common blood pressure medications might help avert the spread of pancreatic cancer by slowing cell growth and causing cell death.

Another lab study reported by University of Rochester Medical Center researchers in the journal Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology recently revealed that a compound in the skin of red grapes and red wine called resveratrol [ress-VARE-ah-trawl] may induce pancreatic cancer cells to die.

And at this year’s annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, researchers from the Scottsdale Clinical Research Institute in Arizona reported that adding a new agent called paclitaxel [PAK-li-TAK-sel] to the standard chemotherapy agent gemcitabine [gem-SITE-uh-bean] was beneficial. Tumor shrinkage or stabilization lasted longer than four months in more than seventy percent of the patients who received it.

Pancreatic cancer continues to be the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in America. More funding and more research are needed, but with innovative ways of doing battle with the disease, the “silent killer” could be one step closer to its own demise.