Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is a lethal disease. Only a small number of patients qualify for surgery and among those, few survive longer than 5 years. Current standard of care is chemotherapy (gemcitabine treatment), however this treatment, unfortunately, has limited efficacy.
New evidence reported in Science Magazine (Science 331:1612-1616, March 25, 2011) shows that preventing the activation of white blood cells or leukocytes, which are in high concentration in the tissues surrounding the pancreatic tumor, may improve the overall survival rate of patients. Dr. GL Beatty and colleagues are studying in mice how blocking a protein on the leukocytes, called CD40, can prevent the suppression of the immune system. This would allow for the patient’s own immune cells (macrophages) to attack the tumor to destroy it. In their mouse models, the combination of gemcitabine + anti-CD40 treatment helps promote survival cancer ridden mice. These data show promise for developing new therapeutic approaches to treat pancreatic ductal carcinoma.