Ulster University has developed a pioneering treatment for pancreatic cancer, which researchers are hailing as the first breakthrough in over 40 years thatcould significantly boost survival rates.
The team has developed a new, minimally invasive treatment, switched on byultrasound, which has shown a five-fold reduction in tumor size in initial testson the most common kind of pancreatic tumor.
The treatment comprises tiny oxygen filled micro bubbles which have in-activedrug attached to the surface, delivered by injection and then burst once insidethe tumour by ultrasound waves that also activate the drug, in a highly-targeted approach designed to minimize impact on surrounding healthy tissues.
“We have also shown that our treatment can be combined with existingpancreatic cancer treatments leading to an even greater therapeutic effect,” said Ulster University’s Norbrook Chair of Pharmaceutical Science, John Callan.
“This really is a groundbreaking development and one of the most promisingadvances in pancreatic cancer research for decades“. Delivering oxygen directly to cancer cells could also boost the effectiveness ofexisting treatments for a range of cancer types, according to Professor Callan.
“Conventional cancer treatments such as radiotherapy and certainchemotherapies are often limited by poor oxygen supply, which is acharacteristic of most solid tumors given their unique blood vessel structure.When our micro bubbles burst, they provide a temporary boost in the amount ofoxygen available in the tumor, enhancing the effectiveness of techniques thatrequire oxygen to work,” he explained.
The majority of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed at a late stage wheresurgery is no longer possible, and just 4% will survive the disease. It is hoped that this experimental therapy could shrink tumors to back to a sizewhere such intervention and other treatments are possible, improving patients‘prognosis.
The technology is being developed by Ulster University Professors John Callanand Tony McHale, University of Oxford’s Professor Eleanor Stride and one ofNorthern Ireland’s top pancreatic cancer surgeons, Mark Taylor.