April 27, 2023 | 17:02
Two therapies may be better than one.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center have discovered that the combination of radiation and immunotherapy could be the key to eliminating pancreatic tumors and stopping the spread of cancer.
The double whammy is significant since, historically, pancreatic cancer has not responded to immunotherapy.
The study, published today in the medical journal Cancer Cell, was carried out using animal models. Clinical trials have not started in humans, but the results have been encouraging so far.
“This is the first time we’ve seen eradication of a pancreatic tumor which suggests that the cancer cell has memory, which means we can prevent the disease from coming back,” lead author Dr. Sana Karam said in a statement.
He added: “Ultimately, this could alter the way doctors treat pancreatic cancer patients in the near future.”
The findings give hope to those living with the deadly disease and pave the way for future research on other treatments to increase the chances of survival.
Immunotherapy stimulates or changes the way a patient’s own immune system works so that it can find and attack cancer cells.
Radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation to destroy cancer cells and tumors.
Karam says that the combination of these treatments helps eliminate “bad” T cells from the immune system.
“When a disease is metastatic, you want to recognize and attack the cell type everywhere, from the pancreas to the liver to the blood and more,” he explained. “This approach does exactly that in our study.”
Researchers in Europe have explored the use of immunotherapy to treat other types of cancer, but this study is said to be the first time that immunotherapy with radiotherapy has been used to treat pancreatic cancer tumors.
“In just one radiation session, we saw a remarkable immune response that could change the way we treat pancreatic cancer patients,” Karam said. “I have never been more hopeful about the possibility of improving the survival rate of this disease.”
The American Cancer Society predicts that 64,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year and 50,000 will die from it.
Pancreatic cancer accounts for approximately 3% of all cancers in the US and is the third deadliest cancer.