Scientists working to improve the odds have made an exciting breakthrough, finding that a peptide taken from the foot-and-mouth-disease virus naturally zeroes in on the majority of pancreatic cancer cells, providing them with a new vehicle for drug delivery that proved capable of completely killing off tumors in early experiments.
The research was carried out by scientists at Queen Mary University of London, who were studying a peptide in the foot-and-mouth disease virus that naturally targets a protein called alpha-v-beta-6 (avβ6). This protein occurs in abundance on the surface of most pancreatic cancer cells, so the scientists set out to see if it could help guide drugs to that destination.
"Foot-and-mouth-disease virus uses avβ6 as a route to infect cattle, as the virus binds to this protein on a cow's tongue," says lead researcher Professor John Marshall. "By testing pieces of the protein in the virus that attaches to avβ6, we've developed a route to deliver a drug specifically to pancreatic cancers. Our previous research had shown that 84 per cent of pancreatic cancer patients have high levels of avβ6 on their cancers."