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September 16, 2008, 10:07 PM CT

New drug substantially extends survival in pancreatic cancer

New drug substantially extends survival in pancreatic cancer
A new form of chemotherapy that destroys new blood vessels that grow around tumors has produced excellent results in a phase II trial of patients with inoperable pancreas cancer, scientists report at the 33rd Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) in Stockholm.

European researchers led by Prof. Matthias Lhr from the Karolinska Institute reviewed the efficacy and safety of three different doses of cationic lipid complexed paclitaxel (EndoTAG-1) administered twice weekly, in combination with weekly infusions of gemcitabine, in comparison to gemcitabine alone, in 200 patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

"EndoTAG consists of charged particles that bind preferentially to the fast-growing endothelial cells in new blood vessels being formed by tumors," Prof. Lhr explained. "The drug, paclitaxel, is then released and thus directly reaches an important target in tumors, i.e. the vessels. Paclitaxel itself is not very efficient in pancreratic cancer".

After following patients for a year, the scientists observed that therapy with such combination led to a substantially extended median survival time in comparison to standard treatment. Patients given gemcitabine alone survived on average 7.2 months, in comparison to up to 13.6 months for patients who received repeated doses of the combination (EndoTAG plus gemcitabine).........

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March 4, 2008, 6:20 PM CT

Chemoradiation for pancreatic cancer better

Chemoradiation for pancreatic cancer better
The addition of the drug gemcitabine with chemoradiation for the therapy of patients who had surgery for pancreas cancer was linked to a survival benefit, eventhough this improvement was not statistically significant, as per a research studyin the March 5 issue of JAMA.

Despite the potential benefits of surgically removing cancer involving the pancreas, there is a 50 percent to 85 percent rate of local relapse linked to liver and intra-abdominal failure and a 5-year survival of less than 20 percent, as per background information in the article. The frequency and pattern of failure makes the combination of added postoperative chemotherapy and radiation an important consideration. The drug gemcitabine has been shown to improve outcomes compared with the drug fluorouracil.

William F. Regine, M.D., of the University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore, and his colleagues conducted a study to assess if the addition of gemcitabine to the supplemental therapy of fluorouracil chemoradiation (chemotherapy plus radiation) improved survival for patients who had a portion of their pancreas removed as a therapy for pancreas cancer (surgical resection). The randomized controlled phase 3 trial included 451 patients enrolled between July 1998 and July 2002 at 164 U.S. and Canadian institutions, with follow-up through August 2006. Patients received chemotherapy with either fluorouracil (n = 230) or gemcitabine (n = 221) for three weeks previous to chemoradiation treatment and for 12 weeks after chemoradiation treatment (with fluorouracil).........

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January 28, 2008, 10:31 PM CT

The smaller the tumor, the better your chances

The smaller the tumor, the better your chances
The odds of surviving cancer of the pancreas increase dramatically for patients whose tumors are smallest, as per a new study by scientists at Saint Louis University and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston the first study to specifically evaluate the link between tumor size and survival rates for one of the most common and deadly cancers.

The findings in the current edition of Pancreas (www.pancreasjournal.com) vividly underscore the importance of early diagnosis of pancreas cancer, the scientists said.

Even though it seems intuitive and was supported by preliminary observations from earlier studies, for the first time we now have evidence that a progressive decrease in the size of a pancreatic tumor at the time of diagnosis improves patient outcomes rather dramatically, said Banke Agarwal, M.D., Associate Professor of gastroenterology at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine and lead author of the study.

These data emphasize the benefit and the need of finding and diagnosing tumors in the pancreas as early as possible, Agarwal added. In order to make progress against pancreas cancer, we have to redouble our efforts to identify symptoms that are linked to the early stages of the disease.

Pancreas cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States and one of the most deadly, responsible for more than 33,000 deaths a year, as per the National Institutes of Health.........

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January 10, 2008, 10:35 PM CT

Pancreatic cancer cells evade immune system

Pancreatic cancer cells evade immune system
A protein that helps prevent a womans body from rejecting a fetus may also play an important role in enabling pancreas cancer cells to evade detection by the immune system, allowing them to spread in the body.

Scientists at Jeffersons Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia observed that the metastatic cancer cells in the lymph nodes of patients with pancreas cancer produce enough of the protein, IDO, to essentially wall-off the immune systems T-cells and recruit cells that suppress the immune systems response to the tumor. The findings might mean not only a better way to detect pancreas cancer spreading to lymph nodes, but also could enhance tumor immune treatment strategies against the fast-moving, deadly disease.

As per Jonathan Brody, Ph.D., assistant professor of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, one way that metastatic cancer cells can survive in nearby lymph nodes is by avoiding the immune system. Evidence from studies by researchers looking at other cancers has indicated that IDO (indolamine 23 dioxygenase) is critical to regulating the immune environment. The Jefferson researchers wanted to know if metastatic pancreas cancer cells residing in the lymph nodes expressed IDO to avoid being found, and if so, could they target this enzyme with available drugs to prevent the cancer cells from hiding from the immune system.........

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October 4, 2007, 4:52 AM CT

Apple compounds reduce risk of pancreatic cancer

Apple compounds reduce risk of pancreatic cancer
Eating flavonol-rich foods like apples may help reduce the risk of pancreas cancer, says a team of international researchers. Quercetin, which is found naturally in apples and onions, has been identified as one of the most beneficial flavonols in preventing and reducing the risk of pancreas cancer. Eventhough the overall risk was reduced among the study participants, smokers who consumed foods rich in flavonols had a significantly greater risk reduction.

This study, reported in the October 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, is the first of its kind to evaluate the effect of flavonols compounds found specifically in plants on developing pancreas cancer. As per the research paper, only a few prospective studies have investigated flavonols as risk factors for cancer, none of which has included pancreas cancer.

Scientists from Gera number of, the Univ. of Hawaii and Univ. of Southern California tracked food intake and health outcomes of 183,518 participants in the Multiethnic Cohort Study for eight years. The study reviewed the participants food consumption and calculated the intake of the three flavonols quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin. The analyses determined that flavonol intake does have an impact on the risk for developing pancreas cancer.........

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August 15, 2007, 8:35 PM CT

Obesity, lack of exercise and pancreatic cancer

Obesity, lack of exercise and pancreatic cancer
Obesity and aversion to exercise have become hallmarks of modern society and a new study suggests that a blood protein associated with these lifestyle factors may be an indicator for an increased risk of developing pancreas cancer. Scientists from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute report their findings in the August 15 issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

In a study of 144 patients with pancreas cancer and 429 people without the disease, a subset of patients with low blood levels of a protein called IGFBP-1 were at approximately twice the risk of developing pancreas cancer. Low blood levels of this protein have previously been associated with excess weight and lack of physical activity. Their data originated from tens of thousands of men and women enrolled in four large-scale cohort studies the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, the Nurses Health Study, the Physicians Health Study and the Womens Health Initiative Observational Study all of which followed the health of participants over numerous years.

The prognosis for a number of patients with pancreas cancer remains poor, so it is vitally important that we indentify and better understand risk factors for the disease, especially risk factors that are modifiable said lead study author, Brian M. Wolpin, M.D., attending doctor at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. In addition to cigarette smoking, exercise and weight control appear to be important modifiable risk factors for this difficult disease.........

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August 15, 2007, 8:33 PM CT

Protein May Indicate Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Protein May Indicate Pancreatic Cancer Risk
A protein that dwindles in response to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle may one day help doctors predict which people are at increased risk for pancreas cancer, new research by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and collaborating researchers indicates.

In a report in the Aug. 15 issue of Cancer Research, the researchers observed that, in a large study group, people with the lowest blood levels of a protein called IGFBP-1 were twice as likely to develop pancreas cancer as those with higher levels. Though much work remains to determine if the protein -- whose acronym stands for insulin-like growth factor binding protein-1 -- is a reliable indicator of pancreas cancer risk, the finding adds to the scientific understanding of how the disease develops.

"The levels of insulin and another circulating hormone, insulin-like growth factor or IGF, are modified by obesity and sedentary lifestyle, and there is evidence that these hormones may stimulate the growth of pancreas cancer cells," said the study's lead author, Brian Wolpin, MD, of Dana-Farber. "When IGF binds to proteins like IGFBP-1, there may be less IGF available to bind to pancreas cancer cells and promote their growth. We wanted to determine whether IGFBP-1 levels in the blood were linked to pancreas cancer risk".........

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August 1, 2007, 9:18 PM CT

New technique for earlier diagnosis of pancreatic cancer

New technique for earlier diagnosis of pancreatic cancer
A new optical technology, coupled with routine endoscopy, may enable doctors to detect the subtle tell-tale traces of early pancreas cancer, as per scientists at Northwestern University in Illinois. The optical technology, developed by biomedical engineers at Northwestern exposes cellular changes indicative of cancer in tissue near the pancreas that had previously been detectable only through intensive radiologic scanning or invasive surgery, two techniques that can put pancreas cancer patients at risk.

The results of the pilot study, presented in the August 1 issue of Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, could represent a new approach to detecting pancreas cancer at a very early stage, when therapy is most likely to succeed.

Pancreas cancer is not often detected early because it is a rather inaccessible organ, so this technique holds the potential to be the first reliable, routine screening tool for pancreas cancer, said co-author author Randall Brand, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University and physician at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare. If we could apply this to those at high risk such as people with chronic pancreatitis or who have a family history of pancreas cancer we might see a drastic improvement in pancreas cancer survival.........

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May 31, 2007, 11:43 PM CT

vitamin B6. B12 and folate, may decrease pancreatic cancer risk

vitamin B6. B12 and folate, may decrease pancreatic cancer risk
Scientists exploring the notion that certain nutrients might protect against pancreas cancer observed that lean individuals who got most of these nutrients from food were protected against developing cancer. The study also suggests this protective effect does not hold true if the nutrients come from vitamin supplements.

As per a research findings reported in the June 1 issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, researchers combined data from four large studies and observed that people who were at or below normal body weight decreased their risk for developing pancreas cancer if they took in high levels of vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate from food. The study determined that their risk was 81 percent, 73 percent, and 59 percent lower, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate respectively, compared with participants who did not eat as much of these nutrients or who weighed more. As per the researchers, that was the only statistically significant finding from the study, which is the largest yet to look at these nutrients and pancreas cancer risk.

All we can say is that a person who has reason to be concerned about their risk of developing this cancer, which is relatively rare but quite deadly, should maintain a normal weight and eat their fruit and vegetables, said the studys lead investigator, Eva Schernhammer, M.D., Dr.P.H., an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.........

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April 16, 2007, 10:08 PM CT

A Pancreas Cancer Risk Model

A Pancreas Cancer Risk Model
People with a family history of pancreatic cancer now have a way to accurately predict their chance of carrying a gene for hereditary pancreatic cancer and their lifetime risk of developing the disease. Developed by Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers, the novel computer software tool is designed to help genetic counselors and physicians decide who would most benefit from early screening.

An estimated 10 percent of aggressive and highly fatal cases of the disease are caused by inherited genes. Even if there is a 100 percent chance that an individual carries a pancreatic cancer gene, their risk for developing the disease is only 20 to 25 percent over their lifetime, says Alison Klein, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of the National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry at Johns Hopkins. So, while its a rare disease, the need for screening in these persons is important.

The risk calculator, based on similar tools for breast and colon cancer, calculates a percentage score of probability that a person carries a pancreatic cancer gene. Called PancPRO, it also computes an individuals lifetime risk of developing the disease.

Eventhough scientists have still not identified specific genes that cause the disease, they can estimate high risk based on clusters of family members with a history of pancreatic cancer. We know how genes behave, and coupled with information about a family - who has the disease, their age, family size, and causes of death - our model can provide a good estimate of an individuals risk, says Klein.........

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Did you know?
A gene therapy that prevents tumour cells from growing in mice could one day offer hope to sufferers of hard-to-treat pancreas cancer, new research suggests.Pancreas cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths in the West and is virtually untreatable - only 3% of patients are alive five years after diagnosis. Most die within six months of diagnosis, since symptoms do not commonly appear until the cancer is very advanced.

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