New Pancreatic Cancer Treatments

Introduction

Pancreatic cancer is a serious illness. It’s one of the most deadly forms of cancer, with only about 7% of people diagnosed surviving five years after their diagnosis. Treatment for pancreatic cancer has been limited, but some new therapies are showing promise in small studies—and that’s good news for patients who want to try something other than surgery.

New non-surgical treatments offer hope for pancreatic cancer patients

Pancreatic cancer is a life-threatening disease that can be very difficult to diagnose and treat. Pancreatic cancer symptoms include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen, back or stomach area
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin)

The main treatment for pancreatic cancer is surgery to remove all or part of the pancreas. However, surgery alone is not always effective because the cancer grows quickly and spreads throughout the body. New non-surgical treatments offer hope for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer who may not be eligible for surgery because they are too ill or their cancers are too large or spread beyond their pancreas. These include immunotherapy drugs called checkpoint inhibitors and a drug called pemetrexed disodium (Alimta®, Emend®). Checkpoint inhibitors work by blocking certain proteins that help tumors hide from our immune system’s T cells – helping them recognize and attack tumor cells better than they would on their own; pemetrexed works by slowing down cell growth in tumors so they cannot grow as quickly as before.”

A combination of drug and radiation therapy showed potential in a small study.

As of June 2019, the FDA has approved afatinib for first-line treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer in adults who have previously received chemotherapy. Afatinib is also approved for use in combination with yttrium-90 radiation therapy and surgery to treat locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer.

  • Afatinib must be given through a bile duct (hepatobiliary) access device (Syringe Feeding Port), which allows for continuous delivery of the drug via infusion through the access device into the bile ducts that drain biliary system.
  • Afinitor is used as part of a combination regimen that includes chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

It is given through the bile duct.

You may have heard the term “percutaneous transhepatic biliary drainage” or “PTBD.” This is a method of draining excess bile from the liver into the small intestine. The purpose of PTBD is to reduce pressure on the liver and prevent metastasis from pancreatic cancer cells in your body.

PTBD can be done at home, as long as you have someone to help you and make sure that everything goes well. The doctor will put a needle through your abdominal wall near where your gallbladder would be located if you had one (in most people this is in upper right quadrant). Once they get into the ducts leading from your liver to your intestines they will use smaller tubes called stents (like those used for angioplasty) to keep them open so there’s no blockage during discharge.

The drug was used in conjunction with radiation treatment using yttrium-90.

In this instance, the drug was used in conjunction with radiation treatment using yttrium-90. Yttrium-90 is a radioisotope and radioactive form of yttrium with a half-life of 64 hours. A radioisotope is an unstable element that releases energy as it decays over time and emits radiation.

Patients received the combination for one week, then rested for two weeks, then repeated the cycle twice more.

The patients received the combination for one week, then rested for two weeks, then repeated the cycle twice more. Then they went back on surgery.

This was a small study, but these results are promising. Pancreatic cancer is notoriously difficult to treat and has been called “the silent killer” because it often doesn’t cause symptoms until it’s advanced and hard to treat once diagnosed.

Patients then went back on surgery.

Surgery is still an option for people with pancreatic cancer. Surgery can be used to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue when it is located near the pancreas or liver. This is important because removing these tumors helps prevent them from spreading to other parts of the body.

Even though this was a small study, these results are promising, said surgeon Dr. David Linehan.

Even though this was a small study, these results are promising, said surgeon Dr. David Linehan.

The treatment involved injecting the person’s pancreatic cancer cells with a compound that causes them to light up when exposed to near-infrared light (NIR). When NIR hit the cells, they glowed brightly and could be seen with an imaging device known as an endoscope camera. Doctors then used another type of cancer-killing radiation called proton therapy targeted directly at the glowing cancer cells. The method killed all the targeted cells in animals tested, while leaving healthy tissue alone.

Linehan has worked on pancreatic cancer care at Nebraska Medicine and is on the board of Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, or PanCAN.

Linehan is an associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where he has worked on pancreatic cancer care for decades, and he’s been a board member of PanCAN since 2013. He says that while it’s true that there is no cure or standard treatment for pancreatic cancer, there are some new treatments coming down the pipeline.

“The main challenge in treating this disease is that it’s not easy to get at in order to deliver therapies, said Linehan. “There are very small blood vessels involved in getting drugs into those tumors or performing surgery on them.”

The most effective way we can treat this disease right now is by removing as much tumor as possible surgically when a patient has early-stage disease, added Linehan. “But even after surgery there’s still about 20 percent chance of recurrence within five years.”

He explained that many patients who want surgery to remove their pancreatic tumor are not eligible because of where it is located in the body.

You may be surprised to hear that the majority of patients who opt for surgery are not able to undergo it.

Dr. Konduru explained that many patients who want surgery to remove their pancreatic tumor are not eligible because of where it is located in the body.

Surgery is an option for only about one in four patients, he said. The reason? The tumor has spread too far or is too close to other organs, making it risky and difficult for surgeons to remove all traces of cancerous cells during surgery. Sometimes tumors are also located near arteries and nerves, which limits surgeons’ access when they’re performing surgery on these parts of the body.

Because it’s so close to other organs and arteries, surgery often isn’t an option.

Because the pancreas is so close to other organs and arteries, surgery isn’t always an option. That’s because it would put you at risk of serious complications like bleeding, infection and organ failure.

Surgery can also cause damage to surrounding organs and tissues, which may lead to more pain or other health problems later on. If you have surgery for pancreatic cancer and your doctor finds a tumor in another area of your body (like liver or lung), this means that there are more cancer cells spreading throughout your body than originally thought—and that’s not good news!

Although chemotherapy may be an option for some people with pancreatic cancer, other treatments are currently being developed as we speak!

This new treatment gives hope to people who might have otherwise been unable to undergo treatment before

This treatment is not a cure, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The treatment is still in the early stages, so it’s too early to tell if it will be effective.

Conclusion

Pancreatic cancer is a devastating disease with few treatment options. However, we have seen great progress in the past decade, including improved surgical techniques and new therapies that allow patients to live longer. As technology continues its rapid development, we hope to see more patients diagnosed early enough that they can undergo these treatments and live longer, happier lives.

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