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Testing a Different Approach to Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Testing a Different Approach to Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
Andreas Wetterberg; Flickr
Can a drug used to treat other diseases help pancreatic cancer patients who are not disease-free after surgery to remove the primary tumor?

A pancreatectomy or Whipple procedure can remove a patient’s main tumor, but post-surgical testing of lymph nodes and the edges of the tissue left after surgery often finds cancer cells. These patients are at high risk of recurrence of the disease. Researchers are trying to slow the recurrence of pancreatic cancer with a drug that is used for blood and bone marrow diseases, including some types of leukemia.

Epigenetic Therapy: A Different Approach

Epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms that switch genes on and off and that regulate how genes behave, even when the DNA has not changed. In cancer treatment, epigenetic therapy reactivates antitumor systems that the cancer has repressed, helping to fight the tumor. The epigenetic modifier azacitidine (CC-486) is a small molecule that gets incorporated into the DNA and blocks the protein responsible to silence antitumor genes reactivating them and hence disrupting cancer’s mechanism of growth.

How this Trial Works

Participants in this trial will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group will receive azacitidine. If their tumor recurs, they will then get standard chemotherapy with gemcitabine or Abraxane, depending on what is deemed best for the patient. The second group, which will not receive azacitidine, will be watched for recurrence and, should that take place, will then receive gemcitabine or Abraxane. Researchers will follow both groups to see if the disease progresses.

To participate in this trial patients must have had pancreatic cancer that was surgically removed but were found to have cancer cells in lymph nodes or on the surgical edges, or an increase in the CA 19-9 marker, also an indication of the continued presence of pancreatic cancer.

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 EmergingMed Trial Finder for a listing of all active pancreatic cancer clinical trials.


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