Study: High sugar levels could help pancreatic cancer treatments
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CLEVELAND (WJW) – There’s an urgent need for new ways to treat pancreatic cancer and Ohio researchers are on the cusp of a potential breakthrough.

Early data shows a hyperglycemic state, elevated blood sugar, can make pancreatic cancer more responsive to chemotherapy, according to researchers at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Those with higher glucose levels, diabetics, uncontrolled sugar, actually live longer while getting chemotherapy,” said Dr. Jordan Winter, Chief of Surgical Oncology at University Hospitals. “We’re really excited about this research because it’s an opportunity to improve survival of a very deadly disease without needing to develop a new therapeutic altogether.”

Study analysis showed patients in the high glucose group had a nearly 40% lower risk of dying, despite a higher level of a cancer antigen compared to people with normal glucose levels.

Winter said pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat. It’s also one of the most deadly. Less than 60,000 people are diagnosed every year, and about 95% of people with the illness die.

“Pancreatic cancer is the 12th most common cancer in the United States, but it’s now the second leading cause of cancer-related death — or third leading cause, soon to surpass colon cancer, in the next couple years,” said Winter.

Sugar, researchers said, is a relatively low-cost intervention that could bypass the yearslong process for developing a new treatment.

“The cost of developing new drugs is over a billion dollars, sometimes multiple billions of dollars and can take 10 to 20 years,” said Winter. “So if you have an intervention that could impact survival without developing a new drug, that is potentially a big breakthrough in our field.”

Clinical trials are expected to begin in 2024, Winter said.

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