Research at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy led by Dai Lu, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, has discovered a new therapy for pancreatic cancer patients that involves the combination of chemotherapeutic drugs with pain relievers. This allows pancreatic cancer patients to experience simultaneous treatment while suppressing painful symptoms from the disease.
Lu and colleagues have focused on a special G-protein coupled receptor that a class of drugs can selectively activate, which in turn induces cancer cell death without harming healthy pancreatic cells.
Research done on mice with pancreatic tumors, demonstrated that the drug molecules prevented tumor growth as well as suppressed spreading of cancer to other organs. Moreover, this class of drugs generates painkillers equivalent to morphine. This is particularly important, since 90 percent of these patients develop severe or intractable pain that leads to poor quality of life and performance status. The most common symptoms in pancreatic cancer patients include malnutrition, jaundice and disabling pain. In patients with inoperative pancreatic cancer, pain management is one of the most important and difficult issues of palliative care.
Lu notes that, “There are no indications that we cannot manage pancreatic cancer as we have done with other types of cancer such as colon and breast cancer. There are just more challenges because pancreatic cancer is a highly invasive malignancy and the metastatic cancer cells are very resistant to currently available chemotherapies.”
Lu and his team of researchers have demonstrated promising results in the testing stage. This study will go into the drug development stage within the next few few years awaiting further grant support from both state and federal sources.
Photo from http://www.cancer.gov