Targeted therapy may increase survival in pancreatic cancer: Lancet

Targeted therapy which targets specific molecules involved in cancer cell growth may give an extra year of survival to cancer patients.

By - Dr. K B Aarthi
Published On 2020-03-13 04:00 GMT   |   Update On 2020-03-13 04:00 GMT

US: Pancreatic cancer is an intractable disease that often evades early diagnosis and defies treatment. 

Targeted therapy for pancreatic cancer patients may give an extra year of survival, showed by an observational study conducted at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre, USA, published in The Lancet Oncology journal.

Patients who had been diagnosed with advanced disease of pancreatic cancer receiving targeted therapy alongside other treatment had been reported with an average of one extra year of survival than those who received standard chemotherapy(survival-31 vs 18 months).

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Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly types of cancers as they are diagnosed late and have very few treatment options. It is the third leading cause of cancer-related death and by 2030, it will be second only to lung cancer.

The study conducted is the first to show that this approach could be a successful treatment option for people with a pancreatic tumor that has molecular alterations. One limitation of the study is that many of the patients who received targeted therapy were also treated with other therapies at the same time, making it difficult to definitively determine the benefits of this approach. However, because both groups received chemotherapy, the only variable was whether or not the patients also received the molecularly targeted therapy.

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"Although only a small number of patients in this study received targeted therapy, the results are promising. No other type of therapy has offered a survival benefit of this magnitude to patients with pancreatic cancer. Our findings suggest that adopting a precision medicine approach, where patients are given a therapy targeted to the specific conditions of their tumor, could have a substantial effect on survival prospects for these patients."says Dr Michael Pishvaian, of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre, USA.

Targeted cancer therapies are drugs or other substances that interfere with specific molecules involved in cancer cell growth and survival in contrast to traditional chemotherapy drugs which act against all actively dividing cells. Targeted cancer therapies that have been approved for use against specific cancers include agents that prevent cell growth signaling, interfere with tumor blood vessel development, promote the death of cancer cells, stimulate the immune system to destroy cancer cells and deliver toxic drugs to cancer cells.

 The authors in this study carried out a retrospective analysis of data from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's Know Your Tumour® programme, a registry of patients with pancreatic cancer from across the USA who had undergone molecular testing of their tumors.

282 out of 1082 patients registered in this program had tumors that harbored molecular changes that were potentially susceptible to targeted therapies. Treatment outcomes were only available for 189 of these patients because some had died before the report could be delivered and others had no documented information about their treatment. Of those, 46 patients had received a targeted therapy matched to the specific molecular change associated with their tumor.

The researchers found that the average survival of patients who received a targeted therapy was 31 months whereas average survival for patients who did not have one of the molecular changes for which a targeted therapy exists, and had been treated with standard chemotherapy, was 16 months.143 patients were eligible for targeted therapy but had been given standard chemotherapy alone had an average survival of 18 months.

In addition, some 351 patients who had received molecular testing were not included in the final analysis owing to missing data on their initial treatment before they entered the study affecting the survival results though researchers expect that the findings would be similar in this group also.

Lynn Matrisian, a co-author of the study and Chief Scientific Officer of The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, USA, said: "Access to high-quality molecular testing is variable. Future efforts should focus on addressing barriers to molecular testing so that more people can benefit from this personalized approach to cancer treatment. We will continue to work to close that gap through our Know Your Tumour programme and through patient and healthcare professional outreach and education." 

This study is publishing at the same time as a cross journal series from The Lancet Oncology, The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, and EBioMedicine on pancreatic cancer, tackling these challenges and highlighting the progress being made in all areas of pancreatic cancer research.

For further information refer to the following link,

https://www.thelancet.com/series/pancreatic-cancer

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