Translational Research at Work—Pancreatic Cancer Network Research Leads to Promising Treatment for Locally Advanced Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network reports on an innovative new combination treatment for pancreatic cancer incorporating chemotherapy and radiation therapy with a common blood pressure drug (losartan). The combination treatment is promising in an early-phase clinical trial for patients with locally-advanced pancreatic cancer.

Summary of Idea & Key Thought Leader

Laboratory research conducted by Yves Boucher, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital established the idea of introducing the blood pressure medication losartan into the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Financial Sponsor

This research as made possible thanks to John M. Sobrato, who funds the work in loving memory of Abby Sobrato.

Translational Hypothesis

The team hypothesized opening up the blood vessels might enhance drug delivery to the tumor and increase oxygen levels to the tumor; this may make it more susceptible to radiation therapy.

Challenging Condition

About 40% of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed with borderline retractable or locally-advanced disease, which refers to tumor growth that encases blood vessels near the pancreas, but has not spread to other organs.  When the cancer has spread out of the pancreas, it is classified as stage IV or metastatic disease reports the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network news release.

Furthermore, note Borderline resectable describes tumors that could become surgically removable after pretreatment with chemotherapy and/or radiation. However most of the time patients with advanced pancreatic cancer are precluded from surgery.

Promising Results

The team’s promising results served as the foundation for a clinical trial the results for which were published on May 30 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Oncology. PanCAN is listed among the funding sources and Boucher is a coauthor of the study.

Moreover, the early-phase clinical trial results suggest the addition of Losartan may make a big difference in the treatment of pancreatic cancer patients with locally-advanced disease.

Through the single-arm Phase II clinical trial, 30 of the 40 patients (61%) with locally-advanced pancreatic cancer, treated with the investigational combination (FOLFIRINOX), including radiation therapy and losartan were able to undergo successful surgery to remove their tumors.