Drugs in preclinical and early-stage clinical development for pancreatic cancer

Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2012 Feb;21(2):143-52. doi: 10.1517/13543784.2012.651124. Epub 2012 Jan 5.


Introduction: Pancreatic cancer (PC) is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US and Europe, and the lethality of this cancer is demonstrated by the fact that the annual incidences are approximately equal to the annual deaths. Current therapy for PC is multimodal, involving surgery and chemotherapy. Clinical symptoms are unspecific, and consequently about 85% of patients with PC are diagnosed at advanced tumor stages without any surgical therapy options. Since the therapeutic rates for PC are so dismal, it is essential to review the clinical targets for diagnosis and treatment of this lethal cancer.

Areas covered: In this review, we discuss potential treatment options for PC by identifying molecular targets including those involved in cell proliferation, survival, migration, invasion and angiogenesis. Targeting these molecules in combination with surgery could improve the clinical outcome for PC patients.

Expert opinion: For a decade, gemcitabine has remained the single first-line chemotherapeutic agent for advanced adenocarcinoma of the pancreas; however, less than 25% of patients benefit from gemcitabine. The reason for frequent reoccurrence of PC after conventional methods such as surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy is due to the lack of understanding of the basic underlying metabolic cause of the cancer and thus consequently remains uncorrected. Our understanding of drug resistance in PC is still not clear and may be answered by focusing on new useful biomarkers and their role in chemo- and radioresistance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Humans
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / therapy