Washington: Scientists say they have shrunk or slowed the growth of notoriously resistant pancreatic tumors in mice, using a drug routinely prescribed for malaria and rheumatoid arthritis.
The pre-clinical results have already prompted the opening of a small clinical trial in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest and hardest-to-treat forms of cancer, said the investigators, led by Alec Kimmelman, a radiation oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
"We are seeing robust and impressive responses in pancreatic cancer mouse models," said Kimmelman, whose laboratory specializes in studies of pancreatic cancer, the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The oral drug, hydroxychloroquine, is inexpensive, widely available, and causes relatively mild side effects, he said. A second, planned clinical trial will combine the drug with radiation.
"While these findings are indeed exciting and a cause for optimism, one needs to be mindful that so far the effects, while impressive, have only been shown in mice," said Ronald DePinho, MD, director of the Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science at Dana-Farber. "I eagerly await to see how the human studies will progress."
The pre-clinical results will appear in the April issue of the journal Genes & Development and is currently published on its web site.