Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Pancreatic Cancer Health Center

Font Size

New Drug May Treat Pancreatic Cancer

Experimental Treatment Improves the Effectiveness of Chemotherapy
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 24, 2009 (Berlin) -- Scientists are developing a pill that makes difficult-to-treat pancreatic cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy, paving the way for a new approach to treating the disease that killed actor Patrick Swayze.

The pill inhibits the action of a protein called TAK-1 that makes pancreatic cancer cells resistant to chemotherapy.

Overcoming resistance to chemotherapy is the greatest challenge to treating pancreatic cancer, says study researcher Davide Melisi, MD, PhD, a staff physician at the National Cancer Institute in Naples, Italy.

"Pancreatic cancer is an incurable malignancy, resistant to every anticancer treatment. Targeting TAK-1 could be a strategy to revert this resistance, increasing the efficacy of chemotherapy," Melisi tells WebMD. "When you turn TAK-1 off, all the shields of the pancreatic cancer cells get turned off, so chemotherapy can get to them."

In test tube experiments, the researchers treated pancreatic cancer cells with the TAK-1 inhibitor pill. Then the cells were treated with the standard cancer drugs Gemzar, Eloxatin, and an experimental form of Camptosar.

"The drug increased the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drugs 70-fold," Melisi says.

The effectiveness of the pill was confirmed in experiments in mice with pancreatic cancer. First the mice were treated with Gemzar alone. The drug was ineffective, he says.

But when mice were given Gemzar and the TAK-1 inhibitor together, their tumors shrank and they lived longer.

The findings were presented at a meeting of the European Cancer Organization and the European Society of Medical Oncology.

Melisi says the drug company Lilly is developing the TAK-1 blocker. The researchers hope to start human trials in 2010.

Josep Tabernero, MD, head of the GI tumor unit at the Vall d'Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, Spain, says that new approaches for pancreatic cancer are desperately needed. "It's one of the deadliest cancers, with virtually all patients with advanced metastatic disease dying within six months."

"Anything that would increase the effectiveness of current therapies is welcome. But we need to be cautious as not everything that works [in the test tube and animals] pans out in the patient setting," Tabernero tells WebMD.

Today on WebMD

human pancreas
Do you know what they are?
man with a doctor
Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
Integrative Medicine Cancer Quiz
Patrick Swayzes Widow Healing From Loss
Pets Improve Your Health
Resolved To Quit Smoking