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Crit Rev Oncog. 2019;24(2):105-118. doi: 10.1615/CritRevOncog.2019031417.

Pancreatic Cancer: An Emphasis on Current Perspectives in Immunotherapy.

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Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia 23529.
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, UNT Health Science Center, Fort Worth, Texas 76107.
Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine; UNT Health Science Center, Fort Worth, Texas 76107.


Pancreatic cancer affects both male and female individuals with higher incidences and death rates among the male population. Detection of this malignancy is delayed due to the lack of symptoms in the early-stage cancer, which makes it extremely difficult to treat. Identifying effective strategies has been a challenge for improving the survival rates in pancreatic cancer patients. Resistance to chemotherapy is often developed in pancreatic cancer treatment. Although many strategies are under clinical trials to target certain markers associated with cancer, immunotherapeutic approaches are currently gaining importance. Immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer is in the limelight after preclinical research showed some promise. Immunotherapy approaches were tested along with other treatment options to enhance the treatment effect. Adoptive cell transfer and immune checkpoint inhibitors are currently in clinical trials. The Food and Drug Administration approved pembrolizumab in a fast-tracked review for advanced pancreatic cancer patients. Pembrolizumab blocks the checkpoint protein, programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1), on T cells to boost the response of the immune system against cancer cells, thereby shrinking tumors. The recent developments in immunotherapy and the early success in other cancers are encouraging to further test immunotherapy in pancreatic cancer. The combination of pembrolizumab and pelareorep, an isolate of human reovirus, is in phase II clinical study in metastatic disease. Depending on the results of current clinical trials and testing, the strategies in the pipeline are expected to increase the use of immunotherapy in the clinical testing setting. Success in immunotherapy is urgently needed to address the side-effects, treating patients with advanced disease and reducing metastasis for increasing the survival rate in pancreatic cancer patients.

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