Scientists at the University of Houston have developed an advanced drug for treating highly aggressive and commonly fatal Pancreatic Cancer. The research has been published in the Cancer Research journal by Dr. Ruiwen Zang and Dr. Wein Wang.
Pancreatic cancer has a property of early metastasis and it responds poorly to chemotherapy. The most commonly used chemotherapy drug is Gemcitabine, with modest clinical benefits. Many other drug combinations with Gemcitabine have been tried, but only three combinations regimen has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Most of them failed to significantly prolong the survival of the patients suffering from pancreatic cancer.
Two genes named Nuclear factor of activated T cells1 (NFAT1) and Murine double minute 2 (MDM2), have been identified as causing pancreatic cancer. MDM2 gene regulates (and depletes) the tumor suppressor gene called p53. If there are no tumor suppressor p53 present, MDM2 will cause cancer on its own. NFAT1 up-regulates MDM2 expression and encourages tumor growth.
Patients suffering from pancreatic cancer have NFAT1 and MDM2 in abundance and hence these genes become an open target in cancer therapy. Numerous studies have shown that reduction in MDM2 can lead to a decrease in tumor growth and progression.
“We developed a synthetic compound that we call MA242, and it can deplete both proteins at the same time increasing specificity and efficiency of tumor killing. In our molecular modeling study, MA242 is a potent dual inhibitor,” said Zhang.
Though the new compound is man-made, it is based on a type of sea sponge. Several natural food and products, like broccoli, soybeans, green tea, and turmeric, have also shown potential for cancer prevention and therapy.