The study, led by a team from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California, demonstrated in mice that the drug, called Metavert, may prevent patients from developing resistance to currently used pancreatic cancer chemotherapies.
"If the results are confirmed in humans, we could have a drug with the potential to significantly extend the lives of patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which is very difficult to treat," Edderkaoui added.
Ninety-five percent of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed with PDAC, which develops from cells lining small tubes in the pancreas. PDAC can be difficult to treat because the cancer cells prompt normal cells that reside in the pancreas -- stellate cells -- to produce pancreatic scar tissue.
Scar tissue makes it difficult for chemotherapy agents and blood to enter the pancreas.
Cancer and stellate cell interaction also creates an environment that stimulates local tumor growth and cancer spread to distant sites in the body, the researchers noted.
They discovered that Metavert blocked drug resistance and also significantly boosted the positive effects of radiation and two chemotherapy agents commonly used in humans. In one of the mouse studies, Metavert increased the survival rate by about 50 percent.
The researchers currently are developing a version of the drug to test on humans.