With a five-year survival rate that’s less than 10 percent, pancreatic cancer is considered one of the most difficult forms of this disease to treat. Often diagnosed in later stages, this form of cancer is noted for having tumors that simply do not respond to common treatments, such as chemotherapy. Researchers, however, believe they may have uncovered a way to produce more positive results through treatment. The method involves taking a two-step approach to chemotherapy.

A recent study was conducted to determine if a more in-depth approach to chemotherapy would have an impact on results. The treatment involved the use of Fasudil, a drug used on stroke victims, for a three-day period. Researchers believed the drug might prepare tumors to be more receptive to standard chemotherapy. Once the course of Fasudil was completed, chemotherapy began.

The results of the small-scale trial were quite promising. Researchers found that the two-step treatment was able to double survival time while impeding the spread of cancer. The trial was conducted on mice and using tumor samples from human patients, as well.

While more work needs to be done to determine if the approach would be beneficial for more widespread use, researchers say it is a positive step forward. Clinical trials to test safety for patient use are planned and the off-patent Fasudil, scientists say, is ripe for repurposing for uses such as fighting pancreatic cancer.

It is estimated that more than 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the coming year. An estimated 43,000 will die from this cause. With no early screening test widely available and few symptoms, if any, at its onset, pancreatic cancer remains a very difficult form of the disease to detect and treat. The latest research into a two-step approach may someday help make treatment more effective. In the meantime, people at risk for this condition are strongly urged to talk to their healthcare providers.