With an estimated 49,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed in the United States each year and more than 40,000 deaths, there’s no denying the outlook for patients is bleak. With a five-year survival rate that doesn’t break the 10 percent mark, the need for better, life-extending treatments is critical. Researchers at the City of Hope say they may have found a treatment to offer a brighter outlook for patients with an aggressive form of this disease.

The treatment in question comes from a rather unlikely source. It seems researchers have found that a modified salmonella bacteria can be useful for targeting tumors that are strongly resistant to other forms of treatment. This weakened form of salmonella bacteria has been found to extend lives when a highly aggressive form of the disease is present.

At this point, the modified salmonella has only been tested on mice. Several studies, however, have proven rather successful. In one, for example, mice that would have normally died from the disease with about 10 weeks underwent the treatment. They were able to survive as many as 25 weeks after the salmonella was able to break into a tumor’s protective barrier and effectively destroy the cancer cells by damaging the cells’ immunosuppressive defenses.
Salmonella therapy has not yet been approved for human use. The researchers, however, are hoping to gain FDA approval for use as an experimental treatment within the next two years.

Presenting problems in detection and treatment, pancreatic cancer is among this disease’s most deadly forms. Research such as that being conducted by the City of Hope is paving the way for a better outlook for those diagnosed down the road. People who are concerned about pancreatic cancer and their likelihood of developing it are urged to speak with their healthcare providers. Personal physicians are often best positioned to help determine risks for this disease and many others.