Testing the Effect of a Malaria Drug on Standard Treatment

Microscope Image Of A Yellow Cell With White Cells Around It And Partly Reaching On It, On A Teal Background
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Can a drug used to treat another disease affect the body in ways that assist cancer-fighting drugs?

Researchers are testing a chemotherapy regimen that adds a drug typically used to treat malaria to the standard treatment usually given for metastatic or advanced pancreatic cancer.

Another Use for a Malaria Drug

The anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, used for a number of autoimmune diseases, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, has been found to work against the abnormal growth of tumor cells.

When the body is functioning normally, cells are cleaned up through a process called autophagy. Abnormal proteins and damaged parts of the cells are removed during this process. However, tumor cells do not die properly like other cells. In the presence of cancerous cells, autophagy sustains the tumor cells by not causing cell death.

Enhancing Standard Chemotherapy

A standard treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer is a combination of gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel. Gemcitabine is converted into two metabolites that cause cell death. One reduces the number of proteins available to make DNA; the other shortens the DNA strands. Nab-paclitaxel (brand name: Abraxane) inhibits cell division and promotes cell death. Adding hydroxychloroquine to this standard treatment regimen may further promote tumor cell death.

The trial is looking to find the most tolerable dose of hydroxychloroquine. Researchers also want to see how the drug affects the body. To do this they are looking at debris from the autophagy process. This debris gets included into some white blood cells.

We encourage you to consult your physicians for clinical trials that may be right for you. The website ClinicalTrials.gov provides more details about this trial as well as many others. You can visit the Clinical Trial Finder for a listing of all active pancreatic cancer clinical trials.