FDA approves two new drugs to treat neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, stepped down as CEO last week stating that he could no longer perform the duties of his job due to health reasons. The mastermind of the iPhone and iPad first acknowledged in 2004 that he had pancreatic cancer and underwent surgery to remove the mass.

Pancreatic cancer has a bleak diagnosis primarily because it is often has no symptoms until after the cancer has metastasized. However, Jobs had a rare type of pancreatic cancer, known as a neuroendocrine, which is generally more treatable.

In 2009, Jobs had another health setback when he received a liver transplant. Patients who have organ transplants must take drugs in order for their bodies not to reject the new organ. These drugs also suppress the immune system and can allow the cancer to re-emerge and attack other organs. Jobs has not revealed why he is stepping down, only to say his health is preventing him from continuing to serve at the helm of the $338 billion Apple empire.

This year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two new drugs for neuroendocrine tumors, sunitinib and everolimus. Both drugs were found to increase the survival rates in patients with progressive well-differentiated pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors and in patients with unresectable, locally advanced, or metastatic disease.

The approvals were based on randomized controlled trials comparing the drugs to placebos. Scientists at John Hopkins University in Baltimore also have just completed deciphering the genetic code of neuroendocrine tumors, giving hope to better treatments in the near future.

National Cancer Institute