A new clinical trial for people with advanced pancreatic cancer, has now commenced in Australia. The trial led by Amplia Therapeutics, in collaboration with Professor Paul Timpson from the Invasion and Metastasis Lab at The Garvan Institute of Medical Research, will test whether pre-treatment with the new drug AMP945 can render pancreatic cancer more susceptible to chemotherapy.
The trial will focus on patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer and one of the most lethal cancers worldwide. The five-year survival rate is less than 10% and drops below 3% if the cancer has already metastasised. PDAC is highly drug resistant partly due to the hard shell – like outer layer surrounding the tumour made up of dense fibrous tissue, that acts as a barrier to drug treatment.
“The survival rates of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma patients are sadly so low and have been largely unchanged for decades,” states Professor Timpson, “Our approach is a promising new clinically relevant avenue to improve on current treatments and potentially make a real difference for patients.”
“By making cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy, we hope to improve survival rates for pancreatic cancer patients. This work is a powerful example of cutting-edge research in the laboratory collaborating with industry’s expertise in drug development and potential clinical translation,”
‘Priming’ cancer cells: A new strategy for treatment
AMP945 targets a protein produced by pancreatic cancer cells called Focal Adhesion Kinase (FAK) that controls the formation of tough, fibrous tissue through a process known as fibrosis. AMP945 has been shown to act on FAK, offering the potential for it to make cancers that were previously resistant to treatment responsive to therapeutic drugs.
Preclinical studies in experimental models lead by Professor Paul Timpson, effectively showed that AMP945 derived FAK inhibition reduces the stiffness and density of the fibrous tissue surrounding the cancer cells, ‘priming’ the tumour for chemotherapy and reducing pancreatic cancer growth and spread. The research, published in Science Advances, paved the way to a clinical trial that will assess whether the pre-treatment therapy approach will be effective for PDAC patients.