The New York Times published a cover story detailing the anticipated approval of gene therapy for a certain type of leukemia within the next few months. This medical breakthrough may open the door to a new class of treatments that could target blood-based cancers as well as solid tumors, including pancreatic.

According to the publication, these new gene therapies restructure a patient’s own immune cells to become a “living drug” that attacks cancer cells. Various immunotherapy approaches are being tested against pancreatic cancer in preclinical lab studies and in clinical studies in patients – and we are funding several of these types of efforts through our Research Grants Program.

Currently, solid tumors are less amenable to the gene therapy approach, called chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) treatment utilizing genetically altered cells. But researchers are working diligently to find ways to use it against solid tumors like pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Stephan Grupp, director of the cancer immunotherapy program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and a leader of major studies, is quoted in the article to say, “If it (the CAR-T approach) can start to work in solid tumors, it will be utterly transformative for the whole field.”

However, it will take at least five years to find out if this treatment will be applicable to solid tumors.

“We have a long way to go before confirming that gene therapies will work for pancreatic cancer, but this is a promising step in the right direction,” said Allison Rosenzweig, PhD, scientific communications manager for PanCAN. “Medical breakthroughs such as this give us hope for the future of pancreatic cancer.”

Pancreatic cancer is the nation’s toughest cancer with a five-year survival rate of just 9 percent. Visit to help us reach our goal of doubling survival by 2020.

Read the full article from The New York Times.