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'Old' drug brings new hope

Posted by: Research 5 August 2014

New trick for 'old' drug brings hope for pancreatic cancer patients

CANCER RESEARCH UK scientists have found a new use for an old drug by showing that it shrinks a particular type of pancreatic cancer tumour and stops it spreading, according to research published in Gut yesterday.

The scientists, at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute and the University of Glasgow, treated mice with pancreatic cancers caused by known genetic faults with the drug rapamycin.

Despite previous clinical trials finding drug to be ineffective as a treatment forallpatients with different forms of pancreatic cancer, the team's findings show that a particular type of pancreatic tumour - caused by a fault in the gene PTEN, which is involved in cell growth - may be responsive to the drug after all.

They found that giving rapamycin to mice with faulty PTEN pancreatic tumours stopped the cancer cells from spreading and, in some cases, also caused the tumour to shrink.

The drug blocks a protein called 'mammalian target of rapamycin' (mTOR), which also controls cell growth. The research suggests that tumours caused by the faulty PTEN gene may be dependent on mTOR to keep growing.

Alex Ford, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer UK said: "given that we know individual patients react differently to some treatments, it is important to be able to tailor the treatment to the individual and choose the option most likely to yield a positive response.

The possibility to assign treatment based on the genetic profile of a patient's tumour is incredibly exciting and will allow doctors to personalise patient care for maximum benefit. Although work on blocking individual signalling pathways like mTOR is still in the early stages it has great potential for the future."

To read more about the research, visit the Cancer Research UK site