ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Future Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer

Updated on April 24, 2013


There have been many advancements that have been made in the treatment of cancer overall. Despite this reality, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is a malignancy that carries among the worst prognosis. It is one of the few cancers whose prognosis has not been markedly improved over the past two decades. The main reasons for this are that it usually remains asymptomatic until it has metastasized. In addition, it also forms proteins that protect the tumor, making it difficult for the chemotherapy drugs to get to the actual cancer cells. These protective proteins are known also as scaffolding.

Currently, only 5% of people diagnosed with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma are alive after five years. There are as many as 16 different types and subtypes of pancreatic cancer. Almost all of them are placed into one of two categories, exocrine and endocrine. 95% of pancreatic cancer are exocrine tumors, most commonly adenocarcinoma.

The Pancreas

The pancreas is a gland that has two functions. The exocrine cells secrete enzymes into the duodenum. The endocrine cells through ducts called the islets of Langerhans push insulin into the body. It is located behind the stomach, and is connected to the liver and duodenum. It works together with the biliary tree (liver, gall bladder, and duodenum) to produce the enzymes and fluids that digest the food.

The pancreas serves two vital functions in the digestive process.
The pancreas serves two vital functions in the digestive process.

Treatments of the Future - Gene and Stem Cell Therapy

In a malignant tumor, there is a small group of cancer cells, called cancer stem cells, that drive the abnormal cell replication and tumor growth. If chemotherapy puts cancer into remission, but these stem cells are not killed, the cancer is very likely to eventually return. These stem cells in the case of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma are very resistant to chemotherapy drugs. While they are less than 2% of the cancer cells of the tumor, they are the hardest to kill.

Researchers at the University of Michigan hypothesize that these cancer stem cells are resistant due to a malfunctioning in the expression of a gene called Ataxia Telangiectasia Group D Complementing gene (ATDC). They believe that instead of attacking the stem cells directly, it may be more constructive to target the gene that is causing them to be resistant. If the gene can be repaired, the cancer cells themselves will be more vulnerable to chemotherapy attack.


Johns Hopkins is currently working on the development of a pancreatic cancer vaccine. Certain immune cells in the body are unable to detect cancer cells. The vaccine injects pancreatic cancer cells that have been rendered incapable of reproduction through radiation. Their genetic makeup has also been shifted. The altered cells give off a protein that enables the immune cells to spot the cancer cells and tumors, and hence strengthen their ability to attack them.

This vaccine is currently in early phase clinical trials and has showed marked improvement in survival time.

New Drugs

For over a decade, gemcitabine, with the trade name Gemzar, was the only chemotherapy drug available for pancreatic cancer. In most cases it would only modestly prolong life. Increasingly, the understanding of pancreatic cancer as having heterogenous causes that vary with the individual have given rise to using combinations of drugs, as well as drugs that were previously only used for other cancers. Abraxane and Folfirinox, which is actually a combination of four different drugs, have in many cases showed superior results to Gemzar, or when used in combination. Over the next decade, these drugs will more often be a first choice in a chemotherapy attack as opposed to Gemzar, or in addition to Gemzar.

Early Detection Tests

As stated before, one of the main reasons for the poor prognosis of pancreatic cancer is the fact that one usually displays no symptoms until it has already metastasized. Methods of early detection are currently rudimentary and in many cases unreliable.

An extraordinary potential breakthrough came last year at the hands of a 15 year old boy named Jack Andraka. Instead of looking directly for pancreatic cancer cells, he sought to isolate proteins that are biomarkers for cancer formation. He found that a protein called mesothelin was present in all cases. He created a sensor made out of paper with carbon nanotubes that reacted to the presence of mesothelin.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)