RICHMOND Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) researchers have conducted preclinical research in search of finding new treatment opportunities to increase the survival rate of pancreatic cancer.

Preclinical research involves the study of a drug or a disease with the testing of animals. Upon the findings of this specific study, experimenters will then determine if this research may transition into testing in human volunteers.

Pancreatic cancer — formally known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma — is said to be one of the most difficult cancers to treat effectively with a one-year survival rate of 24% and a 9% survival rate over the course of five years, according to VCU health officials.

Published findings show researchers from VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center and the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine have found that polyinosine—polycytidylic acid (pIC) has the ability to suppress tumor growth, induce cancer cell death and enhance survival in animal models that have the most common form of pancreatic cancer.

This double-stranded RNA is said to act as an immunostimulant and provides these effects when used in a form that can be delivered right into the tumor cell.

Analysts have also found that pIC can work in combination with a standard-of-care medication called gemcitabine — a chemotherapy drug — to improve survival rates of patients with pancreatic cancer.

“PDAC is a devastating disease. Our survival data is so encouraging in these mice, we consider the potential impact of our treatment on humans will be significant,” said Luni Emdad, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., associate professor of VCU’s Department of Human and Molecular Genetics.

This preclinical study performed on mice revealed the pIC slowed tumor growth by approximately 60% showing a protective, vaccine-like effect on the rodents.

Though further study is needed, researchers are confident this approach will work, not only in pancreatic cancer, but multiple cancer types to become a generalized therapy in combination with cancer-specific standards of care.