New drug auceliciclib could be breakthrough treatment for brain and pancreatic cancer patients

ADELAIDE, Australia — Pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest forms of the disease to treat. Although some patients, like Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, can survive for several years before their condition becomes terminal, 90 percent of pancreatic cancer patients die within five years of their diagnosis. Now, researchers from the University of South Australia say a new drug, Auceliciclib, may be a breakthrough treatment for the roughly 500,000 people dealing with the disease.

Auceliciclib, which comes in pill form, is already showing potential as a treatment for glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer, in clinical trials. UniSA Head of Drug Discovery and Development, Professor Shudong Wang, is hoping to start a new trial for pancreatic cancer patients as well.

Pancreatic cancer is extremely difficult to diagnose at an early stage because there are very few symptoms,” Prof. Wang says in a university release.

“If it is caught early the malignant tumor can be surgically removed, but once it spreads into other organs it is lethal, and chemotherapy and radiotherapy only buy patients a little extra time.”

How does Auceliciclib work?

Researchers say Auceliciclib specifically targets CDK4/6 enzymes, which pancreatic cancer cells disrupt. This makes the cancer drug more effective while also resulting in fewer side-effects than standard cancer treatments.

Cancer doesn’t always discriminate. Rich, healthy and young people, including those with access to the best medical treatment, can all fall victim to it,” Prof. Wang adds.

Scientists note that both brain cancer and pancreatic cancer are among the hardest cancers to treat. Each form of the disease has a low survival rate and doctors typically don’t diagnosis these cancers until their later stages.

Wang’s team is also looking for a unique biomarker of pancreatic cancer which patients with the disease share at the genetic level. The university has started a fundraising campaign to gather support for the clinical trial of Auceliciclib in these patients.