The pancreas is deep inside the abdomen behind the stomach and produces enzymes that help to digest food and control blood sugar. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most difficult cancers to treat. It has a low survival rate and the most common form of pancreatic cancer, called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, is known as an aggressive disease with only 8.5 percent of people who receive a diagnosis living more than five years after being diagnosed. The latest research could change that.
The study found that the parasitic drug mebendazole can stop pancreatic cancer from growing or spreading in genetically engineered mice, a finding that may lead to new therapies. The researchers gave mebendazole to the mice and then measured levels of inflammation, tissue changes and the stage, grade and metastatic status of any tumors that developed. They also looked at how mebendazole affected a protein called tubulin, which helps to build the skeleton of cells and regulates the way that cell parts move within and out of the body. The researchers discovered that mebendazole stops the production of this protein and causes cancer cells to collapse from within.
Pancreatic cancer is hard to detect and diagnose in its early stages because it develops in a part of the body that’s hidden from routine exams. It’s also difficult to treat once it spreads, which is why the 8.5 percent of people who survive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis live for only about five years. Traditional chemotherapy drugs can slow the growth of pancreatic cancer but do not cure it, and newer immune-targeted antibodies have shown promise but are not widely available.
In an effort to find more ways to treat pancreatic cancer, researchers are now focusing on targeting the way that tumors get their energy. Tumors use a process called angiogenesis to grow, and they create a network of blood vessels that supply them with fuel. Some tumors also release substances that hide the tumor from the immune system and make it more resistant to drugs.
Tumors can get their energy from a variety of sources, but one of the most important is glucose. Cancer cells need a lot of glucose to grow and thrive, but normal, healthy cells don’t. To overcome this, researchers are looking for ways to block the source of cancer’s energy by making tumors more sensitive to insulin.
The research is preliminary and the next step is to test the drug in humans. It will need to be paired with other therapies, such as immunotherapies that stimulate the immune system, and clinical trials should begin in 2022. In the meantime, patients can talk to their doctor about adding complementary and alternative treatments to their treatment plans. Full Fact told PolitiFact that there is insufficient evidence to support Joe Tippens’ claims that fenbendazole, a dog deworming medicine, can cure cancer in people. The nonprofit organization Cancer Research UK tells Full Fact that fenbendazole hasn’t gone through the necessary clinical trial to prove it works in people. fenbendazole for pancreatic cancer