Human pancreatic cancer remains a highly malignant disease with almost similar incidence and mortality despite extensive research. Many targeted therapies are under development. However, clinical investigation showed that single targeted therapies and most combined therapies were not able to improve the prognosis of this disease, even though some of these therapies had excellent anti-tumor effects in pre-clinical models. Cross-talk between cell proliferation signaling pathways may be an important phenomenon in pancreatic cancer, which may result in cancer cell survival even though some pathways are blocked by targeted therapy. Pancreatic cancer may possess different characteristics and targets in different stages of pathogenesis, maintenance and metastasis. Sensitivity to therapy may also vary for cancer cells at different stages. The unique pancreatic cancer structure with abundant stroma creates a tumor microenvironment with hypoxia and low blood perfusion rate, which prevents drug delivery to cancer cells. In this review, the most commonly investigated targeted therapies in pancreatic cancer treatment are discussed. However, how to combine these targeted therapies and/or combine them with chemotherapy to improve the survival rate of pancreatic cancer is still a challenge. Genomic and proteomic studies using pancreatic cancer samples obtained from either biopsy or surgery are recommended to individualize tumor characters and to perform drug sensitivity study in order to design a tailored therapy with minimal side effects. These studies may help to further investigate tumor pathogenesis, maintenance and metastasis to create cellular expression profiles at different stages. Integration of the information obtained needs to be performed from multiple levels and dimensions in order to develop a successful targeted therapy.
Keywords: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, molecular targeted therapy, pancreatic stroma, drug resistance, gene therapy, monoclonal antibody, kinase inhibitors, xenografts, Mesothelin, chemotherapy
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