Study: Exosome blocker may be new non-toxic treatment option for pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is steadily rising as a leading cause of death among cancer patients, and is projected to be the 2nd leading cause of death in cancer patients by the year 2030, according to a study in the journal of Cancer Research. With a five year survival rate of just 8 percent, it is a type of cancer whose mortality rates are constantly increasing, despite treatment.

Pancreatic cancer is also an under-researched and underfunded disease with few FDA approved treatments available to combat it. That may change now that Dr. Reginald Hill, Archibald Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology at the University of Notre Dame and researcher at the Harper Cancer has taken on the case. Hill’s research focuses on drugs that are already approved by the FDA and seeks to find out why the drugs are not working in patients with pancreatic cancer.

“The bulk of a pancreatic cancer tumor is made of approximately 10 percent cancer cells and 90 percent supporting cells. Somehow, the supporting cells have figured out how to survive the chemotherapy,” Hill said. “Microscopic vesicles called exosomes, bubbles with genetic material released by cells during chemotherapy exposure, are released from supporting cells, educating the cancer cells on how to survive, resulting in a tumor becoming chemoresistant.”

According to research in the New England Journal of Medicine, chemotherapy and current drug treatments are useless against pancreatic cancer, and most new research being conducted focuses on destroying supportive cells. The problem with this is that destroying supportive cells only caused the cancer to become more advanced “It was like poking holes into the area around the cancer cells and allowing it to spread,” he said.

Hill’s research focused on blocking the release of exosomes, preventing the relay of information from supporting cells to cancer cells — which made the chemotherapy more effective. His study suggests that using an exosome blocker (nontoxic) in combination with standard-of-care chemotherapy will help treat those with pancreatic and many other cancers as well.

Current cancer treatments generally involve chemotherapy and radiation, which both seem to be linked to higher mortality rates. In fact, studies are showing that chemo and radiation hastens cancer deaths instead of preventing them. Not a surprise considering how toxic the treatment is. Anything that can help is a great thing, but if Hill’s treatment idea works out, I am certain big pharma will find a way to steal it for themselves and then hold the treatment hostage for insane amounts of money because that’s how the greedy, capitalistic system works.

But if Dr. Hill’s treatment does work and does become available, it will be a wonderful option for those suffering from the disease. That alone will give hope to millions of cancer sufferers and their families.

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