June 13, 2018 • 2 Min

Testing the Effectiveness of Immunotherapy Added to a New Drug Combination

Black and white photo of test tubes upright in a rack

Bill Dickinson; Flickr

Can an immunotherapy treatment make a drug combination more effective on pancreatic tumors that may be surgically removable?

Researchers are measuring the response of tumors to a combination of immunotherapy added to standard chemotherapy plus a drug used to treat malaria and diseases like arthritis. They are then comparing that to the effectiveness of the standard combination plus antimalarial drug.

Unblocking Some T Cells

Avelumab is a monoclonal antibody that increases the immune activity of some types of T cells by blocking proteins that inhibit the response of those T cells. Because of this function it is classified as an immune checkpoint blockade drug.

The Drug Combination Under Study

The combination of gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel is a standard treatment for pancreatic cancer. 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. Best known as an antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine is used to treat autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It has been found to work against the abnormal growth of tumor cells, by blocking a stress mechanism that tumor cells depend on.

The researchers are looking at whether adding avelumab will increase the response of pancreatic tumors to chemotherapy.

Participating in this Trial

This trial is for patients with pancreatic cancer that is surgically removable or possibly removable, who have not had prior treatment. Participants in this trial will be randomly assigned to either of two groups. One group will receive the nab-paclitaxel, gemcitabine, hydroxychloroquine (PGH) combination, while the other group will receive PGH plus avelumab (PGHA).

We encourage you to consult your physicians for clinical trials that may be right for you. The website 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.

This trial has been terminated due to safety concerns.

What new treatments and clinical trials are available to me?

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