Scientists in the UK have discovered the potency of L-asparaginase and MEK, two drugs that “can shrink pancreatic cancer tumors” when ingested together.


The study was published in Nature Cell Biology.

The team of scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, San Diego, successfully tested the new combination on rats and concluded that the treatment for pancreatic cancer is key to tackling other forms of the disease.

According to the researchers, the two drugs, which reported relative success in patients suffering different cancers like leukemia, work by starving tumors of asparagine, a key nutrient needed to grow, and stop them from adapting to survive.


While the scientists used L-asparaginase to starve the cancer of asparagine, the MEK inhibitor worked to prevent it from activating a stress response pathway that allows it to create the chemical by itself.

“The sad reality is at present, pancreatic cancer therapy is lagging since there is no effective treatment for these tumours. Our study identifies a potential treatment combination that can immediately be tested against these aggressive tumors,” Ze’ev Ronai, senior author of the study.

“We are already meeting with oncologists at Oregon Health & Science University to discuss how to advance this discovery into clinical evaluation.”


Rosalie Sears, a professor at Oregon Health and Science University, also said therapies against cancer would work as different drugs targeting vulnerabilities.

“It’s clear we’re not going to find a single magic bullet that cures cancer but will instead need several drugs that target multiple vulnerabilities. This study identifies a promising dual treatment for pancreatic cancer and I look forward to seeing these drugs tested in patients,” she added.

According to Daily Mail, Eytan Ruppin, the study author and chief of the Cancer Data Science Library at the National Cancer Institute, said: “this research lays the basis for the inhibition of pancreatic tumor growth by a combined synergistic attack.”

Pancreatic cancer is dreaded as the deadliest form of the disease — hitting around 9,000 people in the UK and nearly 57,000 in the US annually, according to Pancreatic Cancer UK,


Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an agency of the US department of health and human services, has approved a new drug to treat sickle cell disease.

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