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Drug Des Devel Ther. 2015 Jul 7;9:3529-45. doi: 10.2147/DDDT.S60328. eCollection 2015.

Pancreatic cancer: optimizing treatment options, new, and emerging targeted therapies.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Oncology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.


Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the US and is expected to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the next decade. Despite 5-fluorouracil/leucovorin with irinotecan and oxaliplatin (FOLFIRINOX) and gemcitabine/nab-paclitaxel significantly improving outcomes for metastatic cancer, refractory disease still poses significant challenges. Difficulties with early detection and the inherent chemo- and radio-resistant nature of this malignancy led to attempts to define the sequential biology of pancreatic cancer in order to improve survival outcomes. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is characterized by several germline or acquired genetic mutations, the most common being KRAS (90%), CDK2NA (90%), TP53 (75%-90%), DPC4/SMAD4 (50%). In addition, the tumor microenvironment, chemoresistant cancer stem cells, and the desmoplastic stroma have been the target of some promising clinical investigations. Among the core pathways reproducibly shown to lead the development and progression of this disease, DNA repair, apoptosis, G1/S cell cycle transition, KRAS, Wnt, Notch, Hedgehog, TGF-beta, and other cell invasion pathways, have been the target of "precision therapeutics". No single molecularly targeted therapeutic though has been uniformly successful, probably due to the tumor heterogeneity, but biomarker research is evolving and it hopes to select more patients likely to benefit. Recent reports note activity with immunotherapies such as CD40 agonists, CCR2 inhibitors, cancer vaccines, and novel combinations against the immunosuppressive tumor milieu are ongoing. While many obstacles still exist, clearly we are making progress in deciphering the heterogeneity within pancreatic cancers. Integrating conventional and immunological targeting will be the key to effective treatment of this deadly disease.


immunotherapies; pancreatic cancer; signaling pathway inhibitors; targeted therapies

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