Doctors Target Multiple Facets Of Pancreatic Tumors

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center are successfully treating pancreatic cancer patients using multiple novel strategies including a combination therapy on a clinical study designed to choke off a tumor's blood supply.

"For many patients, we are already seeing significant improvements in survival and more importantly, in quality of life," says Dr. Tanios Bekaii-Saab, a researcher at Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center who is leading several clinical trials for treating pancreatic cancer.

Oncologists here are using combinations of drugs that target the tumor and its microenvironment, including starving blood flow to the tumor.

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"Tumors need blood vessels to grow and spread," says Bekaii-Saab, who is also a medical oncologist at the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. "If we cut off the blood supply, then the tumor will be unlikely to grow back or spread early in its course."

"With more clinical trials available for pancreas cancer patients, we learn more about individualizing therapy and tailoring treatment," says Bekaii-Saab. "We are continuously looking for innovative options, including the next generation of targeted agents or 'smart bombs' that target directly the pancreatic cancer cells with minimal damage to the innocent bystanders."

This year alone, almost 38,000 Americans will develop pancreatic cancer, and almost 34,000 will die from the disease, making it the fourth deadliest cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease, which has a dismal 5-percent survival rate, is more prevalent in men age 50 and older, in blacks and smokers, Bekaii-Saab says.

Symptoms may include abdominal pain, unexplained jaundice and weight loss. Often, pancreatic cancer remains undiagnosed until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage that tends to respond poorly to most standard treatments, Bekaii-Saab says. In few cases, the cancer is detected early enough and surgery followed by chemotherapy may increase long-term survival, he said.

"Everyday in our clinics, we see patients with this type of cancer in early or advanced stages that do much better than ever expected," Bekaii-Saab says.

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