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Scientists have discovered a new mechanism that may explain why pancreatic cancer patients are often resistant to a common chemotherapy treatment.
A team at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute found that gemcitabine cancer drugs do not work in mice after studies showed that their tumours have poor networks of blood vessels called vasculature, which make it harder for drugs to reach the tumour.
The researchers found that a genetically modified mouse model of pancreatic cancer was also resistant to gemcitabine treatment.
The findings, which are published in the journal Science, also show that human pancreatic cancer samples contained a deficient blood supply, suggesting that the observations in the mice would also be applicable to humans.
Senior author Dr David Tuveson, group leader in tumour modelling and experimental medicine at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute, said: “We’re extremely excited by these results as they may help explain the disappointing response that many pancreatic cancer patients receive from chemotherapy drugs.”
It is hoped the results can be used to develop chemotherapy drugs that are more effective against fighting pancreatic cancer.
Around 230,000 people across the world have the disease and 7,600 new cases are diagnosed in the UK each year. However, only 3% of patients survive for five years or more.
Copyright Press Association 2009