Pancreatic Cancer

3D image of a pancreas. Site of pancreatic cancer.
Digital illustration by Abhijith Ar. C/O

One of the most aggressive cancers known is pancreatic cancer. It is the seventh most common cause of death due to any cancer and there is at the moment a 5 year survival rate of less than 10%. The overall survival time-line for advanced pancreatic cancer is between 4 and 6 months.

In the USA, in 2012, there were nearly 44,000 cases of this cancer and just under 38,000 deaths from it. Another statistic is that it caused 333,000 deaths globally in 2012 (Jemal et al., 2010; Siegel et al., 2012). In 2018, there were 432,200 deaths globally and its incidence has risen with 460,000 cases every year (Bray et al., 2018; Siegel et al., 2018). One of the worst affected countries is China which now accounts for 20% of all world cases. 

The reasons for the high fatality rate are not entirely clear but it is well known that ineffective screening, the high metastatic potential and the many asymptomatic features of the disease make it a difficult cancer to diagnose and quickly too. Many patients simply do not receive the appropriate treatment until too late (Feng et al., 2014).

Even though improvements have been made in the past decade, the therapeutic effectiveness of conventional treatment based on chemotherapy and radiotherapy is still relatively poor. The current drug treatment is to use the drug gemcitabine primarily (Burris et al., 1997). It is clear that new and improved methods are sought along with therapeutic agents to treat the condition.

One of the objects at FoodWrite is to make the public more aware of foodstuffs and naturally derived products which might help ameliorate the condition. Whilst there is little published evidence at this moment in time, we are aware of research at the cell level into flavonoids which have certain inhibitory activities against various cancer cell lines. With hope, these will also have activity against pancreatic cancer cell lines. 

One such flavonoid in naringenin from citrus fruit which we hope to report on at a later date.

Kanglaite Treatment For Pancreatic Cancer

Traditional Chinese medicine has long relied on extracts from a seed of the Coix lacryma-jobi (Job’s Tears) seed. Kanglaite is a broad spectrum anti-tumor drug which is now approved for use in Chinese hospitals. As well as a treatment for pancreatic cancer it is used for the treatment of advanced lung cancer in conjunction with other therapies such as platinum-based chemotherapy (Huang et al., 2020).

It is an injectable microemulsion using the oil from these seeds. It has potential antineoplastic activity. The mechanism is still not known but it appears to interfere with the cell cycle and halts tumor cells in the G2/M phase. It probably inhibits mitosis and this proliferation of cancer cells (NCI, 2020).

It appears to be able to ameliorate and attenuate the toxicities associated with chemotherapy although this was shown in studies with stage III/IV non-small cell lung cancer (Huang et al., 2020).


Bray F, Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, et al. (2018) Global cancer statistics 2018: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries. CA Cancer J Clin. 68 pp. 394–424.

Burris 3rd, H.A., Moore, M.J., Andersen, J., Green, M.R., Rothenberg, M.L., Modiano, M.R., Cripps, M.C., Portenoy, R.K., Storniolo, A.M., Tarassoff, P., Nelson, R., Dorr, F.A., Stephens, C.D., Von Hoff, D.D. (1997) Improvements in survival and clinical benefit with gemcitabine as first-line therapy for patients with advanced pancreas cancer: a randomized trial. J. Clin. Oncol. 15, pp. 2403-2413.

Huang, X., Wang, J., Lin, W., Zhang, N., Du, J., Long, Z., … & Ma, W. (2020). Kanglaite injection plus platinum-based chemotherapy for stage III/IV non-small cell lung cancer: A meta-analysis of 27 RCTs. Phytomedicine67, 153154. (Article)

Jemal, A., Siegel, R., Xu, J.Q., Ward, E., (2010) Cancer statistics. (2010) Ca-Cancer J. Clin. 60, pp. 277-300

National Cancer Institute (2020) NCI Drug Dictionary. kanglaite Accessed 14.19 20th February 2020. (Access)

Siegel, R., Naishadham, D., Jemal, A., (2012). Cancer statistics. (2012) Ca-Cancer J. Clin. 62, pp. 10-29.

Siegel, R.L., Miller, K.D, Jemal, A. (2018) Cancer statistics, 2018. CA Cancer J Clin. 68 pp. 7–30. 

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