TUESDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- Two preliminary studies suggest that some headway is being made in both the detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer.
On the treatment front, researchers from two Cleveland institutions said they have fashioned a vaccine that, in early trials, appears to kick-start the patient's immune system into attacking cancer cells.
The team -- from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the Seidman Cancer Center at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland -- stressed that the vaccine (called Algenpantucel-L) is not designed to prevent disease from occurring in the first place.
Initial testing, however, indicates that when used in conjunction with a standard six months of chemotherapy (with or without radiation) and surgical interventions, the vaccine may prolong short-term, disease-free survival, and perhaps even overall survival.
Lynn Matrisian, vice president of scientific and medical affairs at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, said the vaccine work shows promise.
"We are eager for the outcome of the phase III trial of the Algenpantucel-L vaccine," she said. "The phase II results are very encouraging, and the ongoing larger-scale, randomized phase III trial will determine the effectiveness of this novel treatment strategy."
On the detection front, a separate team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., said it has come up with a novel and minimally invasive method to screen for signs of pancreatic cancer at a much earlier stage than is currently possible.
Instead of standard image scanning or biopsies, the experimental method, called "polarization gating spectroscopy," uses a small fiber-optic endoscopic probe configured with a light to explore regions near to, but much more accessible than, the pancreas itself.
The goal: to spot telltale signs of regional blood vess
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