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article imageNew drug developed to treat pancreatic cancer

By Tim Sandle     Sep 12, 2018 in Science
A new drug for pancreatic cancer has been developed by a college of pharmacy researchers. The new product could lead to the formation of a new strategy to fight cancer. The medicine targets two genes at the same time.
The breakthrough could help to treat highly aggressive and often fatal pancreatic cancer. The new drug functions to inhibit two of the major pathways with the disease. The drug also holds the promise for being the framework for developing drugs to treat other forms of cancer or other diseases. The new development comes from the University of Houston, and was developed by Ruiwen Zhang and Robert L. Boblitt.
Pancreatic cancer, which is manifest in different forms, occurs when cells in the pancreas begin to multiply out of control and develop into a mass. The resultant cancerous cells can invade other parts of the body. Most cancers begin in the region of the pancreas which produces digestive enzymes.
Symptoms include pain in the back or stomach area, unexpected weight loss and jaundice (yellowing of the skin). In addition, a person’s urine may also appear dark yellow and itchy skin can develop.
There are two cancer-causing genes associated with pancreatic cancer. These are nuclear factor of activated T cells1 (NFAT1) and murine double minute 2 (MDM2). The latter gene regulates the tumor suppressor gene termed p53. When there is no tumor suppressor p53 present, MDM2 triggers cancer. NFAT1 serves to up-regulate MDM2 expression and thereby encourages tumor growth. Factors associated with diet, nutrition and environment can lead to higher levels of these factors in cells.
Commenting on the discovery, Dr. Zhang said: “There is an unmet clinical need for new, effective and safe drugs for pancreatic cancer therapy. Our discovery represents a significant advance in cancer research.”
He adds, explaining why this new drug is different from others: “Most drugs only target one factor. We identified a single compound that targets two linked genes that cause cancer.”
The new drug is a synthetic compound termed MA242. The drug can deplete both proteins at the same time, which enhances the efficiency of tumor killing. The research will be published in the Cancer Research Journal.
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