Patients suffering with one of the most severe forms of cancer could be treated with a commonly used chemotherapy drug, according to new research.
Scientists found that the drug 5-flourourcil, or 5-FU, can be used effectively on patients with pancreatic cancer.
The study also raised hopes of finding a better treatment by combing 5-FU with another drugs, such as chemotherapy drug, gemcitabine.
Tests are already under way to see whether it could work.
Currently, 5-FU is used to treat patients suffering with a range of cancers including bowel, breast and ovarian.
Almost 8,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the UK. The disease is one of the hardest cancers to treat, and only around 3% of patients survive more than five years.
The new findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama).
Study leader Professor John Neoptolemos, director of the Liverpool Cancer Research UK Centre based at the University of Liverpool, said: “Importantly this means patients now have a backup in case their cancer fails to respond to the first line of treatment. A new trial investigating whether combining these two treatments could be even more effective and prolong life is already under way and we look forward to seeing the result.”
The trial, ESPAC-3 (European Study Group for Pancreatic Cancer) recruited more than 1,000 patients at 159 centres in Europe, Australasia, Japan and Canada.
One group of patients received the standard treatment, gemcitabine, while another was prescribed 5-FU.
The results mean that 5-FU should now also be considered one of the standard options for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.