A team of MIT researchers has discovered that a combination of three immunotherapy drugs can eliminate pancreatic tumors in mice, and should enter clinical trials later this year.
Immunotherapy drugs work by facilitating the immune response of T cells, a white blood cell crucial for a person’s ability to fight off a variety of diseases, including cancer. The problem is that most cancerous tumors, including pancreatic tumors, create immunosuppressive proteins that shut down the response of the T cells, causing cancer cells to grow unabated.
Most common immunotherapies, such as Immune Checkpoint Therapy, block the interaction between these immunosuppressive proteins and T Cells, allowing T Cells to return to their natural job of destroying cancerous cells. While these more common therapies have shown success in treating Melanoma and Lung Cancer, they have not proven to be successful at treating Pancreatic Cancer.
Researchers found that this was because the most common form of immunosuppressive protein, PD -1, was not often found in pancreatic cells, but instead had a protein called CD 155/TIGIT which is not only harder to detect but can effectively shut a T cell down.
New Immunotherapy Combinations
Using this knowledge, researchers crafted combinations of drugs that not only suppress the formation and interaction of the more common cancerous PD -1 Protein but the CD 155/TIGIT protein as well. Combining more traditional immunotherapy drugs with a new experimental drug called CD 40, researchers were able to shrink the tumors of about 50 percent of the animals they tested on, and in 25% of the animals they tested, the tumors disappeared completely. Perhaps even more importantly, once the treatment was stopped, the tumors did not regrow.
While neither of these drugs is FDA approved currently, they are in stage 2 of their clinical trials. If these results prove capable of lasting through human trials, it could be amazing news to the lives of the more than 60,000 Americans every year that are suffering from pancreatic cancer. While rare, pancreatic cancer is especially deadly due to a lack of effective treatment options, and only 10% of patients survive 5 years after diagnosis.
If you or anyone you know has a family history of pancreatic cancer, please speak to a medical professional today.