Researchers identify drug therapy for pancreatic cancer

The drug oxaliplatin, used to treat colorectal cancers, was effective at stopping the growth of pancreatic acinar cell carcinoma in lab tests with mice.

By Stephen Feller

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., May 26 (UPI) -- A rare form of pancreatic cancer is susceptible to a chemotherapy drug typically used for colorectal cancers, according to new research from the Mayo Clinic.

The drug oxaliplatin stopped the growth of pancreatic cancer in the lab, researchers report in a study published in the Journal of Translation Medicine, suggesting patients with BRCA2 mutation-positive pancreatic cancer may have a treatment option in the pipeline.


BRCA2 is a protein that suppresses tumors by repairing damaged DNA and keeping cell genetic material stable. For patients with pancreatic acinar cell carcinoma, which means they have the mutation, there is no effective standard therapy.

Oxaliplatin, a platinum-based chemotherapy drug, is used to treat colorectal cancer. Scientists at the Mayo Clinic found its efficacy against pancreatic cancer using a patient biopsy they'd been testing several anti-cancer drugs on.

"This may be a breakthrough for this rare cancer," Dr. Gerardo Colon-Otero, an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, said in a press release. "Genomic testing for DNA mutations can now be performed, and, if the results are positive, those patients are candidates for platinum-based drugs, such as oxaliplatin."


For the study, the scientists used a tumor biopsy from a patient with metastatic pancreatic cancer, which had spread to the liver, to develop a tumor xenograft for a mouse model, testing the effects of the cancer drugs 5-FU, irinotecan, oxaliplatin, gemcitabine, bevacizumab, erlotinib, doxorubicin and imatinib.

Of the drugs, just two produced a significant response from tumor cells. Bevacizumab halted growth of tumor cells, but the effect did not last as long as oxaliplatin.

"We showed the tumor growth was inhibited by a number of drugs, but oxaliplatin was the standout drug," said Dr. John Copland, a cancer biologist at Mayo Clinic. "Our hope is that information gleaned from our study will provide new options for patients diagnosed with this rare form of cancer."

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