"When we put these cells into mice, we showed that not only did the tumors not grow very well, but they didn't metastasize well," she said.
These findings suggest that the arthritis drug aurothiomalate (Myochrysine), which targets PKCi, could effectively treat pancreatic cancer alone or combined with other chemotherapy. It could prevent pancreatic cancer cells from growing or make other chemotherapy more effective, Murray said.
Aurothiomalate is already in a phase I clinical trial for lung cancer patients at Mayo's Minnesota and Arizona sites, Murray said. A phase II trial being planned will combine aurothiomalate with drugs that target other molecules in these cancers, she noted.
It is possible that a future trial will test aurothiomalate in pancreatic cancer patients, she said.
Besides treating pancreatic cancer, PKCi might also be useful in diagnosing the disease, she added.
The findings intrigued William Phelps, program director for translational and preclinical cancer research at the American Cancer Society. "Pancreatic cancer is in dire need of new therapeutic opportunities. Those things we've got don't seem to work well," he said.
Each year, about 40,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed in the United States, and about 35,000 people die from it, Phelps said. "Typical survival after diagnosis is five to seven months," he said.
Pancreatic cancer is particularly resistant to treatment, and most cases are diagnosed when the disease is advanced, said Phelps.
The current drug approved to treat it, gemcitabine (Gemzar), is only minimally effective, Phelps said. "It's not really giving more than a two-month life extension," he said.
Targeting PKCi could be worthwhile, Phelps said. "This looks like a pretty good idea to go forward," he said.
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