Pancreatic cancer is a disease with very low survival rates. In most cases, the cancer is diagnosed late, when the tumor is already causing pain, jaundice, weight loss, etc. In these cases, most of the time, the tumor has already burst outside the pancreatic tissue and attached to the bile duct and adjacent blood vessels, which significantly hinders the ability to excise the tumor during surgery.
The customary treatment of pancreatic tumors is chemotherapy, even at the advanced stage and, in instances when it has been discovered at an early stage, chemotherapy is also used after the tumor has been excised. Survival rates are low, even after chemotherapy. However, recently, oncologists have begun to see that pancreatic tumors also respond to biological therapy and personalized therapy.
Biological therapy: biological drugs work on various receptors in cancerous tissue with the aim of preventing the cancer from proliferating or of affecting genome mutations that activate cell-division mechanisms. In this way, these targeted drugs succeed in destroying the tumor.
Immunotherapy: drugs that use the immune system to fight the tumor, when the tumor is paralyzing the immune system. One of the known mechanisms uses the immune system in a focused way with drugs that inhibit PD1.
Personalized therapy: in instances when tumors are not responding to the customary chemotherapy for metastasized pancreatic cancer, advanced tests may be used in order to try to pinpoint targets for various treatments. The most suitable therapy may then be decided according to the biological characteristics of the tumor tissue, whether chemotherapy, biological therapy, immunotherapy or even hormone therapy, which had not previously been considered effective.
Pancreatic cancer and genetics: conditions that increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer are chronic inflammation of the pancreas, and diabetes. However, in about 5-10% of pancreatic cancer patients, there is a possibility that the disease was hereditary. For example, inherited carriers of mutations in the BRCA2 gene, which also relates to breast cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer, and an inherited syndrome of colon cancer and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), which is also called “Lynch Syndrome.”