Two years ago, researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute
discovered a new weakness of pancreatic cancers. Currently, they
are in the process of harnessing that knowledge to develop a
combination therapy, and their lab work so far has produced
promising results. Now, the American Pancreatic Cancer Collective
has awarded the team a research grant of 3.8 million dollars,
allowing them to start working towards a clinical trial.
Pancreatic cancer is still one of the deadliest forms of cancer,
recent figures from the Netherlands Cancer Registry confirm:
only 1 in 20 patients is still alive five years after receiving
their diagnosis. As doctors and scientists continue their
relentless search for new treatment methods, organisations like Stand up to Cancer and the
Lustgarten Foundation in
the US have joined forces in the Pancreatic Cancer
Collective, determined to change patients' prospects.
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
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
The study described above builds on prior research funded by the
Dutch Cancer Society.