Patrick Swayze Opens Up About Pancreatic Cancer
Actor Says He's 'Going Through Hell,' Took Experimental Medication
WebMD News Archive
Besides chemotherapy, Swayze took an experimental drug called vatalanib. What does that drug do?
Vatalanib inhibits tyrosine kinases, which are enzymes needed for cell
growth, cell proliferation, and cell differentiation.
"What inhibition of this does is you're stunting the growth of the tumor,"
Singh says. "You're preventing it from getting more aggressive, with the hope
that it ultimately dies and goes away."
He points out that vatalanib is still being tested and isn't available
What else is in the pipeline for treatment?
"There are probably at least 100 to 150 new drugs that are in the pipeline,"
says Singh, adding that most experimental drugs are used with chemotherapy when
other treatments fail.
"Stage IV therapy predominantly is chemotherapy-based, at the present time,"
"Cancer cells are very smart," Singh says. "The example that I use in a lot
of talks is that they're going on a freeway. ... if you're going by one main
freeway and the freeway is blocked, you can take an alternative freeway to get
there. And if the alternative freeway is blocked, then you can take multiple
surface routes to get there."
It's the same thing with cancer cells, Singh says. "You think you can block
one gene and hope that these cells are going to not grow any further? Well,
they're smart enough to find an alternative route to get to the other end."
Singh predicts that in the next decade, cancer treatment will be a matter of
using several therapies -- surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and gene therapy
or immunotherapy, if it's available.
"We don't have a magic
bullet," Singh says.
Swayze has been working hard throughout all of this. How typical is his case?
"I don't know the extent of how much [cancer] was there in the liver" when
Swayze was diagnosed," Singh says. "If he had no response to the chemotherapy,
clearly he would have progressed. If Patrick has a good response to this, then
he's in the fortunate group."
The odds aren't good, but Singh knows of patients who have lived longer than
predicted. Singh says that several years ago he met a man who was a seven-year
survivor of pancreatic cancer that had already spread when it was diagnosed.
The man asked Singh to tell his story when he lectured on pancreatic
"I don't know whether he's still alive -- that was three years ago -- but
it's a good success story," Singh says. "But in reality, most of these people
are not around that long."