Pancreatic cancer has one of the deadliest records of all forms of this disease. With a five-year survival rate that doesn’t even rank in the double digits, this disease claims more than 40,000 American lives each year. While a number of obstacles have stood in the way of advancements in treating this form of cancer, researchers believe they may have pinpointed a way to make chemotherapy treatments more effective for some. The simple addition of Vitamin A may make a tremendous difference, a recent study indicates.

The study in question involved the use of a particular form of Vitamin A. The vitamin was used in high doses in conjunction with chemo because it enabled researchers to target “stromal cells.” These are cells that surround cancer cells, impeding routine chemotherapy treatments from having an effect. When the combination was used in mice, the results were highly promising.

Just how soon the combination therapy might be made available to humans remains unclear. Researchers, however, were so pleased with the results they intend to move on to clinical trials. The findings offer hope that someday soon chemotherapy might be a more viable treatment option for this form of cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is deemed among the most difficult forms of the disease to treat because of its nature. This type of cancer forms deep within the body and presents initially with few, if any, symptoms. When symptoms do arise, they tend to be vague and mistaken for other, less troublesome conditions.

People who are at risk for pancreatic cancer are urged to talk with their healthcare providers. Common risk factors for the disease include diabetes, chronic pancreatitis and family history. While no routine screening tool is available for widespread use, people in high risk categories will find some screening mechanisms may be available to them.