Pancreatic cancer is widely considered among the deadliest forms of the disease. Nearly 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with it annually with an estimated 40,000 deaths reported. One of the reasons this particular form of cancer has such a high morbidity rate is that major breakthroughs in its detection and treatment have been largely absent for decades. That’s precisely why news out of the United Kingdom about a potential new treatment is making headlines.
Developed at Ulster University, the treatment involves the placement of oxygen filled microbubbles with an in-active drug directly into a tumor. Once injected into the site, the drug is activated through the use of ultrasound. The treatment enables doctors to directly target the tumor while sparing surrounding tissue. So far, the minimally invasive treatment has been shown to produce a five-fold reduction in the size of tumors. Testing has been performed on the most common type of pancreatic tumor.
Researchers are also finding this unique treatment that delivers oxygen directly to cancer cells may boost the overall effectiveness of treatment for a wide variety of other cancers. Traditional treatments such as radiation and some forms of chemotherapy are limited in their ability to perform because of a lack of oxygen at the tumor site. When the microbubbles burst, they are able to deliver a temporary increase of oxygen. In addition to delivering tumor-killing drugs right to the site, the oxygen boost may potentially enable other treatments to work more effectively.
Although still in the testing phase, this new treatment has shown a great deal of promise. Researchers are working to move this procedure into clinical applications as quickly as possible. How soon it might be available for patient use remains unclear.
People who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are urged to discuss all possible treatment options with their healthcare providers. Those who are concerned about this disease should discuss their personal risk factors with their doctors, as well.