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A New Way to Get Chemo to Pancreatic Tumors
Date:5/21/2009

Technique that doubles life span in mice may hold hope for people,,

THURSDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers are reporting that they've discovered a way to boost chemotherapy and slightly extend the lives of mice with pancreatic cancer, potentially paving the way for more effective treatments in people.

There's no guarantee that the strategy would work in humans. And, even if it did, the researchers don't expect that it would add many months to people's lives.

Still, scientists are "cautiously optimistic," said Dr. David Tuveson, lead author of a study released online May 21 in Science and a researcher at the Cambridge Research Institute in England.

Questions about such factors as cost, though, remain to be answered, Tuveson acknowledged.

Pancreatic tumors are among the most difficult types of cancer to treat. Roughly 5 percent of people diagnosed with the more common form of the disease are expected to survive five years from diagnosis, according to the American Cancer Society.

"It usually gets diagnosed when it is already very advanced because the symptoms don't usually begin until the cancer is advanced," said Dr. Allyson J. Ocean, assistant professor of medicine at the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Pancreatic cancer is resistant to chemotherapy and radiation, she added, and tumors are often aggressive and likely to spread.

Doctors think the disease is especially difficult to treat with chemotherapy because the tumors don't have many blood vessels to carry drugs to where they need to be to kill cancer cells.

In the study, researchers genetically engineered mice to develop a form of pancreatic cancer. The scientists then gave them a chemotherapy drug called gemcitabine (Gemzar) and another compound they hoped would boost blood flow in the tumors.

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