3D Illustration of Human Body Organs Anatomy (Pancreas)

Israeli biopharmaceutical company Modi’in-based BioLineRx developed treatment protocols that are showing promise for pancreatic cancer.

More than three-fourths (77 percent) of patients suffering from stage IV metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma (pancreatic cancer) and treated with a protocol developed by an Israel-based biopharmaceutical company were able to get their disease under control, according to results of an ongoing study reported in the Jerusalem Post.

Modi’in-based BioLineRx revealed updated data from the triple combination arm of its ongoing study that shows double the positive effect on the treatment of pancreatic cancer compared to the approved second-line chemotherapy treatment for the disease.

Almost a third of patients from the study who could be evaluated saw a reduction in tumor size; another 45 percent were able to stabilize the disease, meaning that tumor size neither grew nor was reduced by much over the course of the trial.

Moreover, he said that pancreatic cancer has developed mechanisms that enable it to protect itself from the body’s immune system.

In the Jerusalem Post story, Philip Serlin, CEO of BioLineRx, explained: “It builds sort of an immunosuppressive environment that surrounds it — a shell so to speak — that does not allow the body’s immune system to attack the cancer the way it can attack some other cancers.

“Immunotherapies have become the holy grail of cancer treatment, but they don’t work on pancreatic cancer.”

Recent results indicate that BioLineRx’s BL-8040, administered in combination with chemotherapy and Keytruda, might be that combination.

In this triple combination arm protocol, patients receive BL-8040 monotherapy priming treatment for five days, followed by combination cycles of chemotherapy, Keytruda and BL-8040, until progression.

BL-8040 is a platform molecule, Serlin explained. It can be combined with many different agents potentially to work in various areas of the cancer space. Already, BL-8040 is being tested in human clinical trials to successfully treat acute myeloid leukemia and stem cell mobilization for bone marrow transplantation in multiple myeloma.

Serlin described the BioLineRx and Merck combination as having an “extremely encouraging effect.”

Also encouraging is news reported from Israel 21C. A little molecule named PJ34 can cause cancer cells to self-destruct, according to an Israeli study published recently in the biomedical journal Oncotarget.

Prof. Malka Cohen-Armon and her team at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine did their experiment using xenografts — transplantations of human pancreatic cancer into mice. The mice’s immune systems were compromised so that their bodies wouldn’t reject the transplanted cells.

In collaboration with Dr. Talia Golan’s team at the Cancer Research Center at Sheba Medical Center, the scientists injected PJ34 into the mice for 14 days in a row.

PJ34 originally was developed to treat stroke. But it has been found to have a powerful effect on human cancer cells. The molecule causes something to go wrong during cell duplication, leading to rapid cell death.

A month after the molecule was administered, the number of cancer cells in the mice’s tumors were found to be reduced by 80 to 90 percent. One mouse’s tumor completely disappeared.

Cohen-Armon noted that the treated mice suffered no adverse effects from the PJ34 molecule regimen, nor did they experience changes in their weight or behavior.

Also significant is that the PJ34 molecule exclusively interrupts the duplication of human cancer cells, leaving normal cells alone.

Although PJ34 could work on other types of cancer cells, pancreatic cancer presents a pressing need. Early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is difficult, as often there are no symptoms. As a result, around 80 percent of patients are diagnosed at the metastatic stage and fewer than 3 percent of patients at the metastatic stage survive more than five years after diagnosis.

Therefore, the Israeli research holds great potential for the development of a new effective therapy to treat this aggressive cancer in humans. It could also prove effective against aggressive forms of breast, lung, brain and ovarian cancer.

The molecule PJ34 now is being tested in pre-clinical trials according to FDA regulations before larger animal trials and then human clinical trials can begin.

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