Globally, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death and the 12th most common cancer. New developments in Israel are welcomed as a new drug enters phase 3 trial and Israeli oncologists offer new hope.
Unfortunately, the disease is difficult to diagnose. Due to this, and the aggression of the disease, the first-year survival rate is only 9%. Pancreatic cancer is often found once it has already reached an advanced stage. Over 1,200 people worldwide receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis each day.
That’s why researchers are hopeful about several new drugs: a phase 3 trial recently began with CPI-613 in 8 different Israeli hospitals, and a breakthrough study that shows a 90% reduction of pancreatic cancer cells in mice after treatment with the PJ34 molecule.
Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is typically diagnosed in people aged between 60 and 80. People with diabetes are more at risk, as are people with BRCA mutations. It is also said that people who smoke or abuse alcohol increase their risk; to date, no hereditary links have been established.
Pancreatic cancer often has no symptoms; patients typically feel only vague or non-specific symptoms, delaying diagnosis. The most common symptoms are mild pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. It can be less painful when sitting. Losing weight and loss of appetite are also symptoms. Some of the symptoms are similar to those experienced with Hepatitis B, such as dark urine, yellowing of the skin, and itchy skin. Patients may also feel bloated after meals.
Once cancer has spread, the five-year survival rate is only 3%.
New Pancreatic Cancer Study Offers Hope
Israeli researchers are working on a new drug to treat pancreatic cancer patients. CPI-613 is a PARP inhibitor, a group of drugs that inhibit enzyme-growth. The drug is highly selective and targets cancer cells exclusively, which means less toxicity to healthy cells. It also means that it can be used for an extended period of time and in combination with other drugs.
In the trial, 250 people will receive CPI-613 and chemotherapy. Another group of 250 people will solely receive chemotherapy. Israeli researchers are hoping that by late in 2020 the results will be enough to allow for FDA approval. Otherwise, they are looking at bringing the drug to the market by late 2021.
Results so far have shown that those who received the drug experienced 7.4 months of health before the disease worsened. Patients receiving the placebo only went 3.8 months before symptoms worsened. Researchers are hopeful about this data and the trial is ongoing..
Pancreatic Cancer Rates in Israel and the World
Like all over the world, there has been an increase in pancreatic cancer rates in Israel. In 2013, 888 patients were diagnosed, in 2018 rates rose to 1,024 and it is expected to rise to 1,086 cases by 2020. Today, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in Israel. Yet Israeli oncologists are giving us reason to hope.
The disease is of course also a major concern in the US. Scientists estimate that by 2030, pancreatic cancer will be the second leading cause of cancer death there.
Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Patients
Hopefully, the results of this trial will show positive results that will help attain the necessary FDA approval. The drug offers hope for patients worldwide. And with continuing cancer research in Israel and around the world, we can remain hopeful that treatments will improve our quality of life.