Vitamin A May Boost Chemotherapy in Pancreatic Cancer Patients

A combination approach that targets stromal and pancreatic cancer cells showed decreased cancer cell proliferation and invasion.

Findings from a recent study suggest that adding high doses of vitamin A could increase the efficacy of chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer.

The study, published in The Journal of Pathology, noted the survival rate of pancreatic cancer is only 3% in the UK. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are fairly unsuccessful in treating the disease.

Surgery is the best course of action for patients; however, most are diagnosed once the cancer has metastasized. Researchers tested an approach that targets stromal cells, which comprise 80% of pancreatic tissue and cancer cells simultaneously, according to the study.

By combining gemcitiabine chemotherapy and a form of vitamin A, researchers were able to successfully reduce cancer cell proliferation and invasion.

“This is the first time that we have combined vitamin A with chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. The results are so promising that we're now taking this into a clinical trial. Pancreatic cancer is extremely hard to treat by chemotherapy, so this finding is important because vitamin A targets the non-cancerous tissue and makes the existing chemotherapy more effective, killing the cancer cells and shrinking tumors,” said lead researcher Professor Hemant Kocher, MBBS, MS, MD, FRCS. "This could potentially be applicable to other cancers because if we try to understand the cancer as a whole, including its surrounding tissue, we may be able to develop new and better treatments."

By targeting both types of cells, the signaling pathways used by cancer cells to become aggressive are blocked. Blocking these pathways causes cancer cells to not communicate as effectively and the tumor does not grow.

This new approach is currently being tested in a clinical trial.