Despite public battles against pancreatic cancer from celebrities such as Eric Idle and Patrick Swayze, the medical world is still learning a lot about one of the world’s deadliest cancers. According to the American Cancer Society about 62,210 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2022, with about 49,830 projected to die from it in the same year. While it only accounts for 3% of all cancers in the USA, it disproportionately accounts for about 7% of all cancer deaths.
Thankfully several developments are underway that are giving people hope in the fight against cancer. Recently the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave out Fast Track Designations to a variety of companies and therapies, including one from leading clinical-stage CRISPR genome-editing biopharmaceutical company Caribou Biosciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:CRBU) which announced the FDA granted Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy (RMAT) and Fast Track Designations to CB-010, an allogeneic anti-CD19 CAR-T cell therapy for relapsed or refractory B cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (r/r B-NHL).
One of the more creative methods being implemented is coming out of Japan, where a biotech firm has resorted to using tiny worms as an early screening method for pancreatic cancer.
In late November, Hirotsu Bio Science launched its N-NOSE plus Pancreas test, marketing directly to consumers in Japan and with aims to bring the test to the United States by 2023.
Through sending a special mail pouch to a lab, users send a urine sample that’s later put into a petri dish with a species of nematodes. Known scientifically as C. elegans, these creatures, have olfactory senses much more powerful than dogs, and they follow their nose toward cancer cells, according to the company.
In order to bring more attention to the gravity of pancreatic cancer, and the importance of early detection, former Monty Python star Eric Idle has launched the Bright Side Fund with Stand Up to Cancer to support more research, and promote early detection.
As well, a man who has survived having pancreatic cancer twice, is now dedicating the rest of his life to raising awareness of the early symptoms.
According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, early detection is important due to access to more treatment options, including surgery. If eligible for surgery, it can increase a patient’s survival by about 10x.
More work is needed to improve our detection capabilities, to catch pancreatic cancer in its earlier stages, but with the new developments of detection potential from tiny worms, and the optimism surrounding the newly Fast Track designated reovirus (pelareorep), there appears to be more wins coming in the battle against this deadly form of cancer.