The Wee 1 inhibitor AZD-1775 may make pancreatic cancer cells more vulnerable to radiation while sparing normal cells.

New hope for pancreatic cancer

Phase I/II study may improve treatment of unresectable pancreatic cancer

issue 22 | Fall 2014

A new Phase I/II study will look at adding the Wee1 inhibitor AZD-1775 to standard gemcitabine plus radiation therapy for patients with unresectable pancreatic cancer. This study builds on almost 20 years of research at the University of Michigan focused on improving the treatment of unresectable pancreatic cancer.

The study, which is the first to test this combination of AZD-1775 with radiation and gemcitabine in patients with pancreatic cancer, stems from laboratory research led by Theodore Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D. It is based on the finding that normal cells have two ways to protect themselves from DNA damage produced by chemoradiation, but pancreas cancer cells have only one way. In preclinical studies, inhibiting the Wee1 kinase by AZD-1775 cancels out the one remaining protection that cancer cells have, causing only the pancreatic cancer cells to die. Normal cells remained relatively unaffected in this model.