Evolution of novel therapeutic options for pancreatic cancer

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Pancreatic cancer is the most devastating of all cancers with an extremely poor prognosis. In US alone, over 50 000 new cases of pancreatic cancer are reported annually, and about the same number succumb to it, making pancreatic cancer the third most common cause of cancer deaths. Most patients with pancreatic cancer present with advanced disease, which cannot be resected surgically, and for these patients chemotherapy is the only option. Even patients who undergo resection require adjuvant therapy to decrease the risk of recurrence. Since the 1950s, a variety of different agents, like antimetabolites, nucleoside analogs, and DNA intercalating compounds, have been used against pancreatic cancer, alone or in combination, with little improvement in the survival statistics. The current article reviews the evolution of chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, and discusses some novel therapeutic options that are emerging in recent times, with special emphasis on Minnelide, a novel HSP70 inhibitor, which is currently in clinical trials.

Recent findings

Approaches towards developing therapies for pancreatic cancer have evolved tremendously over the past decade. Research has shown that apart from the inherent drug resistance, drug delivery to pancreatic cancer has also posed a major challenge. The extensive desmoplastic stroma of pancreatic cancer is believed to create inordinately high interstitial fluid pressures leading to vascular collapse and substantial barrier to perfusion of chemotherapeutics, thus creating an additional layer of protection for pancreatic cancer. Recent research thus is focused not only on understanding the biology and developing strategies to target cancer cells, but also is targeted towards the depletion of stroma in order to ensure better delivery of chemotherapeutic compounds to the tumor.

Summary

The current article describes the novel therapies that are constantly being evaluated to address and overcome the challenges that make pancreatic cancer a difficult disease to treat.

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