October 10, 2016 • 2 Min

A Novel Combination to Slow Pancreas Tumors that Cannot Be Surgically Removed

Microscope image of four pancreatic cells with pinkish edges and green centers, against a dark background

Anne Weston, LRI, CRUK. Wellcome Images

Will a new drug, combined with standard chemotherapy and targeted radiation, halt the progress of advanced pancreatic cancer?

Researchers are testing the safety and effectiveness of this new chemoradiation combination in a clinical trial for patients with pancreatic tumors that are not eligible for surgery or are on the cusp of becoming eligible for surgery. The drugs being tested are gemcitabine and veliparib (ABT-888), a PARP inhibitor. A specialized radiology technique is added to this drug combination.

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.

How PARP Inhibitors Work

The PARP enzyme is important in repairing small breaks in single DNA strands. Drugs that block the action of PARP—inhibitors like veliparib, the drug in this study—make the enzyme less effective at repairing the small breaks. When the DNA makes copies of itself, or replicates, these breaks in the strands are also copied, causing the cell to die. Cancer cells replicate their DNA more often than normal cells, which is why PARP inhibitors can be an effective part of cancer treatment.

Combining Two Types of Radiation

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) uses technology to focus radiation beams on the shape of the tumor, including depth. This way the overall body receives less radiation. It combines two types of radiation: standard photon beam radiation, which goes through the body, and proton beam radiation, which can be focused to reach only the targeted area.

All participants receive the chemotherapy and radiation combination being studied.

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 completed. Read the articles “Comparing a Standard Chemotherapy With and Without a PARP Inhibitor” and “A New Drug Combination to Control Advanced Pancreatic Cancer” to learn about another clinical trial using the same new drug.

What new treatments and clinical trials are available to me?

Learn more