In a new study, researchers developed a new drug ProAgio that is effective at treating pancreatic cancer and prolonging survival.
They also found the drug is also effective against triple-negative breast cancer, a fast-growing and hard-to-treat type of breast cancer that carries a poor prognosis.
The research was conducted by a team at Georgia State University.
ProAgio, created from a human protein, targets the cell surface receptor that is expressed on cancer-associated fibroblasts.
Fibroblasts are cells that can create a thick, physical barrier known as the stroma to protect cancer and helps it grow.
The drug works by inducing cell death, in cancer-associated fibroblasts.
The dense fibrotic stroma is what makes pancreatic cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of just eight percent, so lethal and difficult to treat.
Among triple-negative breast cancer patients, research shows denser stroma is linked to poorer survival and high recurrence rates.
The team says all solid tumors use cancer-associated fibroblasts, but in pancreatic cancer and triple-negative breast cancer, the stroma is so dense there’s often no way for conventional drugs to penetrate it and effectively treat cancer.
The stroma also helps the tumor hide from your body’s immune system.
Immunotherapy, a type of treatment that uses your immune system to fight cancer, is less effective against tumors protected by a dense stroma that is rich in cancer-associated fibroblasts.
In the study, the team showed that the drug ProAgio has a profound effect on tumor growth.
In the case of pancreatic cancer, it reopened blood vessels that had collapsed due to high extravascular stress caused by the dense stroma.
In the case of triple-negative breast cancer, the drug reduced irregular, leaky tumor vessels. In both cases, ProAgio allowed drugs to effectively reach cancer.
The team has submitted an Investigational New Drug (IND) Application, a request for authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to administer ProAgio to human patients.
One author of the study is biology professor Zhi-Ren Liu.
The study is published in the journal Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology and the Journal of Experimental Medicine.