Sheba Medical Center offers new hope for pancreatic cancer patients

Talia Golan

Israeli hospital along with Astrazeneca and MSD (Merck) announce new drug that may be a game-changer in treating the horrible disease 


Dr. Talia Golan, the head of the Sheba Medical Center Pancreatic Cancer Center, has said  that a targeted cancer therapy drug she and her team developed together with pharmaceutical giants Astrazeneca and MSD (Merck), offers “potential hope” for patients with a specific type of metastatic pancreatic cancer. 

Thanks to a new drug called Lynparza which is part of a clinical trial regimen known as POLO, which treats a specific type of metastatic pancreatic cancer in those who carry the BRCA 1 & 2 mutation, long-term survival rates for this deadly disease may very well be within reach.

In the past, very few studies had shown the benefits of various drug regimens, until the Lynparza/POLO trial began showing promise in its various trial phases.

“The POLO trial using the medicine Lynparza offers potential hope for those who suffer from metastatic pancreatic cancer and have a BRCA mutation,” the South African-born, senior oncologist revealed, after the New England Journal of Medicine reported the drug yielded promising results.  

Further, “this treatment also exemplifies the advent of ‘precision medicine’ based on a specific genetic biomarker, BRCA 1 & 2,” she added.

In other words, the drug can help target those with the BRCA mutations – unstable cells that often lead to cancer. Ashkenazi Jews are particularly vulnerable, since they are susceptible to carrying the BRCA gene which can lead to cancer.  

Many around the world are in desperate need for a cure. Pancreatic cancer is the 12th most common cancer worldwide, with 458,918 new cases in 2018 alone. It is the 4th leading cause of cancer death, and less than 3% of patients with metastatic disease survive more than five years after diagnosis. Early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is difficult, as often there are no symptoms until it is too late.  Around 80% of patients are diagnosed at the metastatic stage. 

To date, very few studies have shown the benefits of pancreatic cancer, making Sheba Medical Center one of the first. 

This very rare breakthrough involved screening some 3000 patients, 154 of which who underwent randomization and were assigned a trial intervention. The results demonstrated the drug had a noticeable impact on those affected with the disease. Patients from around the world were given the drug in addition to a round of chemotherapy and then were treated repeatedly with olaparib. That group’s results far outpaced those who did not receive treatment.

Golan’s findings were revealed in Chicago this week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual conference, where some 40,000 people were in attendance.

“This drug provides tremendous hope for patients who have pancreatic cancer. When we saw the results were positive, it really was an exceptional and phenomenal moment,” Golan said.

For more information, contact Sheba Medical Center.


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