By Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
“In the history of oncology, there have been only two or three studies that have shown some benefits for pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Raanan Berger, head of Oncology for Sheba Medical Center.
“In the history of oncology, there have been only two or three studies that have shown some benefits for pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Raanan Berger, head of Oncology for Sheba Medical Center, the country’s largest hospital, located in the Tel HaShomer neighborhood of Ramat Gan. “This is a very rare breakthrough.”
The research was conducted by Dr. Talia Golan, the head of Sheba’s Pancreatic Cancer Center. Specifically, her research centered on evaluating the safety and testing the efficacy of a new drug treatment regimen known as POLO in order to treat a specific type of metastatic pancreatic cancer in carriers of the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutation, which runs largely in Ashkenazi Jews and typically makes these individuals susceptible to breast and ovarian cancers.
“The POLO trial using the medicine Lynparza offers potential hope for those who suffer from metastatic pancreatic cancer and have a BRCA mutation,” Dr. Golan said.
Lynparza is also known as olaparib.
“This treatment also exemplifies the advent of ‘precision medicine’ based on a specific genetic biomarker, BRCA 1 and 2,” she said.
Specifically, patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma harboring these BRAC mutations showed promising results in this prior study.
“Based on that experiment and some similar ones, this new study for pancreatic cancer was initiated,” Berger said.
BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are human genes that produce proteins responsible for repairing damaged DNA and play an important role in maintaining the genetic stability of cells, Sheba explained in its release. When either of these genes is mutated such that its protein product either is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly, and cells become unstable. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.
Berger said the results show that those patients from around the world who received the treatment – a round of chemotherapy and then several treatments with olaparib – did much better than those who did not receive the drug in terms of response, time to progression and quality of life.
More than 3,000 patients underwent screening. Of those, 154 underwent randomization and were assigned a trial intervention.