Pancreatic Cancer Research
UC San Diego scientists conducting basic medical research into pancreatic cancer have taken a four-prong approach to unlocking the secrets of this serious disease.
Diagnosis at the Earliest Stages
The goal is to develop a simple blood test, similar to the PSA test for prostate cancer in men. Researchers are using highly sophisticated protein-detection systems to identify the marker that serves as a signature in patients with early pancreatic cancer. Thus far, they’ve found candidate markers that need to be evaluated over the next couple of years.
Prevent the Rapid Spread of Pancreatic Cancer
A major problem with pancreatic cancer is its ability to metastasize (spread) very fast, invading other healthy organs. One of the recent discoveries at UC San Diego is an enzyme in pancreatic cancer cells that seems to turn on metastatic disease. Currently in studies on experimental models, a method to detect this enzyme may soon be available for human clinical trials.
A Novel Drug to Stop Pancreatic Cancer in its Tracks
Scientists know that pancreatic cancer involves angiogenesis, the development of new blood vessels. They’ve also learned that the cancer incorporates certain molecular pathways in the body that are important to the tumor’s growth and its invasive ability. With this information, UC San Diego researchers have uncovered a new class of drugs that may prevent the cancer from accessing the blood supply. They are taking a two-prong approach: 1) attacking the cancer cells directly, causing them to die prematurely, and 2) attacking the blood vessels within the pancreatic cancer itself. Currently in pre-clinical studies with experimental models, the therapy may be available for human clinical trials within the next couple of years.
Smart Bombs to Seek Out and Destroy
UC San Diego researchers have designed nanoparticles that act as “smart bombs” to deliver a payload of drugs selectively to tumor blood vessels, thus sparing normal tissue surrounding the cancer. This will allow for the delivery of very strong anti-cancer drugs. Currently in pre-clinical trials, this therapy may be available for human clinical trials in two or three years.