Cancer of the pancreas is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, with a five-year survival rate of only 8.5%. More than 44,000 people die from pancreatic cancer each year in the United States. New approaches are urgently needed.
The SU2C Pancreatic Dream Team is studying ways to cut off the “fuel supply” that pancreatic tumors need to grow, trying to determine whether pancreatic cancers depend on glutamine instead of glucose for survival, as other cells do. If so, the information can be used to help devise new therapeutic strategies.
The team is also investigating whether agents that hinder the ability of cells to effectively use glutamine hold promise for pancreatic cancer patients. The team is conducting clinical trials on drugs that impair the breakdown of glutamine, such as aminooxyacetate, phenformin, and LDH-A inhibitors.
The breakdown of glucose and glutamine can generate a large amount of metabolic waste and change the stroma, the dense cells surrounding the tumor. Unfortunately, these changes can protect cancer cells from the effects of chemotherapy. Thus, the team tested and was instrumental in FDA approval of a chemotherapy combination, Gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel, to improve the treatment of pancreatic cancer patients.
This Dream Team is also part of the Pancreatic Cancer Collective portfolio of research.