Last year, the Pancreatic Cancer Collective already awarded 7 million dollars in funding to seven leading research groups, enabling them to investigate new treatment strategies in the lab. René Bernards' team at the Netherlands Cancer Institute was one of those seven groups. In a previous study, they had shown that their combination therapy worked well in mice. With the support of the Pancreatic Cancer Collective, they have now collected the additional evidence they need to actually start setting up a clinical trial with human patients. To support this phase of the group's research, the American collective has now made available 3.8 million dollars in funding.
Almost all pancreatic cancer cases involve a mutation of the KRAS protein. Still, there are hardly any drugs that effectively inhibit this hyperactive protein in cancer cells. The new treatment method that will be tested combines an SHP2 inhibitor and an ERK inhibitor. These are targeted drugs which directly affect a specific protein that communicates with the KRAS protein, indirectly inhibiting the mutated KRAS protein.
The clinical trial will initially focus on finding a safe dosage that is tolerable for patients. After this first phase, the researchers will also look at the effectiveness of the combination treatment. The study, led by medical oncologist and medical director Emile Voest, is expected to commence at the end of 2020, both at the Netherlands Cancer Institute and at a university hospital in Munich, where medical oncologist Hana Algül has conducted similar preclinical studies on this treatment strategy.
The study described above builds on prior research funded by the Dutch Cancer Society.