Pancreatic cancer often does not cause any signs or symptoms and by the time it is detected it has already reached a very advanced stage in most case, which is why pancreatic cancers are regarded as the cancer type with the lowest survival rate.
However, new research reveals there is a protein that helps pancreatic cancer avoid and then exploit the immune system and by using mice the researchers were able to demonstrate that blocking the protein could offer a way of stopping the spread of tumors and boost immunotherapy.
This latest revelation by the Beatson Institute in the United Kingdom comes hot on the heels of a clinical trial conducted by Cancer Research UK that shows pancreatic cancer patients have improved survival rates when employing a combined chemotherapy treatment instead of a standard treatment alone.
The Beatson team found that an important failure in the drugs used to attack pancreatic cancer has been the ability of tumors to surround themselves with a protective shield of proteins and cells that stop the primed immune cells from reaching and attacking the tumor.
By analysing the tumor tissue of pancreatic cancer patients who had undergone surgery the research team found high levels of the protein called CXCR2 and that a higher level of that protein correlated with a worse outcome for the patient.
The team went back to the mice and found those treated with an experimental drug that blocks the protein survived longer than those mice who were left untreated. They also found the inhibitor had a more powerful effect when combined with the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine.
The combination stopped the spread of tumors and allowed the T cells to break through the protective shield, which provided the opportunity to attack the tumor.