Treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer has seen progress in recent years, but outcomes remain poor and treatment advances that can prolong patients’ lives, even for a few months, are eagerly awaited. Two papers published today in the scientific journal Nature Medicine report that a new combination of two drugs that are FDA-approved for other conditions may significantly delay progression of pancreatic cancer in cells and in mice. Furthermore, the first patient treated with this combination experienced a prolonged response that lasted almost 6 months.
“Half of melanoma patients with the BRAF mutation have a positive response to treatment with BRAF inhibitors, but nearly all of those patients develop resistance to the drugs and experience disease progression.
“Now, a new preclinical study published online ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Investigation from Penn Medicine researchers found that in many cases the root of the resistance may lie in a never-before-seen autophagy mechanism induced by the BRAF inhibitors vermurafenib and dabrafenib. Autophagy is a process by which cancer cells recycle essential building blocks to fuel further growth. Block this pathway with the antimalarial drug hydroxycholoroquine [sic] (HCQ), the authors found, and the BRAF inhibitors will be able to do their job better…
“Based on these promising preclinical results, Dr. Amaravadi and his team have already launched a clinical trial for patients with advanced BRAF mutant melanoma to see how well-tolerated HCQ is with the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib. ‘So far,’ he said, ‘we are seeing a benefit to patients and low toxicity.’ “