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Malaria drug slows pancreatic cancer growth in mouse models
Date:3/15/2011

BOSTON--Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists report they have shrunk or slowed the growth of notoriously resistant pancreatic tumors in mice, using a drug routinely prescribed for malaria and rheumatoid arthritis.

The pre-clinical results, which will appear in the April issue of the journal Genes & Development and is currently published on its web site, have already prompted the opening of a small clinical trial in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest and hardest-to-treat forms of cancer, said the investigators, led by Alec Kimmelman, MD, PhD, a radiation oncologist at Dana-Farber.

"We are seeing robust and impressive responses in pancreatic cancer mouse models," said Kimmelman, whose laboratory specializes in studies of pancreatic cancer, the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The oral drug, hydroxychloroquine, is inexpensive, widely available, and causes relatively mild side effects, he said. A second, planned clinical trial will combine the drug with radiation.

"While these findings are indeed exciting and a cause for optimism, one needs to be mindful that so far the effects, while impressive, have only been shown in mice," said Ronald DePinho, MD, director of the Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science at Dana-Farber. "I eagerly await to see how the human studies will progress."

A new treatment avenue would be extremely welcome in pancreatic cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 43,140 people were diagnosed in 2010 and 36,800 died. Despite some recent gains with targeted molecular agents and combination regimens, only about 6 percent of patients live five years, and the median survival is less than six months.

Hydroxychloroquine is a form of the drug chloroquine, which is used to prevent and treat malaria and also prescribed for autoimmune diseases, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. These compounds have recently stirred much
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Contact: Bill Schaller
william_schaller@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-5357
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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