combinationEli Lilly’s chemotherapy agent Gemzar has been found to destroy pancreatic cancer cells when combined with an experimental drug called MRK003.In a trial carried out on mice, scientists at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute showed that MRK003 was able to block a cell signalling pathway which supplies tumours with essential nutrients.The addition of MRK003 to Gemzar (gemcitabine) – a drug used commonly in patients with pancreatic cancer – increased the ability of gemcitabine to destroy tumours.Study author and group leader at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute professor David Tuveson said: "This research is a real example of how research taking place in the lab directly influences decisions made in the clinic to improve treatment for patients."Patients are now testing the treatment as part of a clinical trial, but professor of cancer therapeutics at the University of Cambridge Duncan Jodrell said, "It will be some time before we’re able to say how successful this [treatment] will be in patients."Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in the UK and 8,000 people in the country are diagnosed with the disease each year.Although the one-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer has more than doubled since the 1970s, the rate is still low with less than one in five patients surviving their disease for more than a year after diagnosis. Caption: The drug combination is now being tested in pancreatic cancer patients. Credit: Ermeister