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Researchers develop new model to test pancreatic cancer drugs, find cure

Researchers here in San Antonio are blazing the trail to find a cure for one of the deadliest cancers.

Researchers at UT Health San Antonio have developed a new way to accurately test the effectiveness of pancreatic cancer drugs.

Bruno Doiron, Ph.D., of UT Health San Antonio, is one of the researchers who developed the model to induce pancreatic cancer in mice. He injects a virus that contains a gene mutation that's similar to pancreatic cancer in humans. Once the mice are 28 to 30 weeks of age, tumors develop inside of them.

"I simply mimic the mutation that happen at the old age in human to develop pancreatic cancer. So, I pick up mice that are adult and by doing that, injecting the mutation inside the pancreas, I mimic perfectly what's happening in development of pancreatic cancer," said Doiron.

The model allows companies to accurately test new drugs that can treat pancreatic cancer.

"If you use the wrong model, any prediction may come out as the wrong model and fail when it arrives in clinical trial. That's why it's important to have this tool," said Doiron.

As a medical professional and a pediatric cancer patient, Inocencio Davila applauds the work UT Health San Antonio is doing to find a cure for the disease. In December 2017, he began showing early signs of the disease. After a series of tests, a gastroenterologist found that his bile duct was blocked.

"So that's why I was turning jaundice because it wasn't flowing well. It was obstructing. That obstruction caused the jaundice and the itching i was experiencing at that point in time," said Davila. "It hit me hard because I have a history of a family member dying of pancreatic cancer when I was younger. My dad was 43 when he passed on."

"A low stage cancer, about 30 percent of patients are alive at 5 years. For an advanced cancer with no treatment, is less than 6 months," said Sukeshi Arora, M.D., medical oncologist at Mays Cancer Center.

But, Davila caught the disease in it's early stages. He underwent surgery to remove part of his pancreas, intestines and organs. He's now in chemotherapy.

UT Health San Antonio is waiting for a patent to be approved for the new model and a company has already contacted researchers to begin testing drugs.

"I think something that's more directed, like what they're doing with the mice. I think its good and I think we should pursue it," said Davila.

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