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Irinotecan in Pancreas Cancer

In some situations, a healthcare provider may prescribe irinotecan (Camptosar®) to treat cancer of the pancreas. However, this is not an approved use of the drug. Irinotecan is approved to treat colon or rectal cancer that has spread to other areas of the body. Using irinotecan in the treatment of pancreatic cancer is considered an unapproved, or "off-label," use of the drug.
Irinotecan works is by blocking topoisomerase I, an enzyme that helps relax DNA that has been overwound (such as when DNA is duplicating so it can divide). This enzyme helps break the DNA strand to relieve the strain, and then helps put the strand back together. However, when irinotecan binds to topoisomerase I, it prevents the enzyme from repairing the broken DNA strand, which causes the cell to die.
(For more details, click What Is Irinotecan Used For?. This article presents an in-depth overview of this drug's uses, as well as information on who can use it.)
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