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New Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Tested, Extends Lives


A Phase I/II trial of a new treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer has been shown to be safe and to extend life by about six months. The new pancreatic cancer treatment involves a novel drug combination of gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel.

Pancreatic cancer patients in the study lived longer

The study was conducted on patients at Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Scottsdale Healthcare in Arizona and headed by pancreatic cancer expert Dr. Daniel Von Hoff. A total of 67 patients were divided into three groups and treated with the drug combination at different doses. Treatment with nab-paclitaxel was daily while gemcitabine was given on days 1, 8, and 15 every 28 days.

After the safety and dose-finding phase showed impressive results, 44 patients were entered into the Phase II group. Tumor size decreased in nearly half of the patients, and 48 percent lived at least one year, with 12.2 median months of overall survival. “Compared to the average survival of 6 months seen typically in this group of patients, this is very encouraging,” noted Dr. Ramesh Ramanathan, medical director of Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials.

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An estimated 44,030 people will receive a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in the United States in 2011, according to the National Cancer Institute. Approximately 37,660 deaths associated with the disease are expected in that same year.

Gemcitabine is a drug used to treat a variety of cancers. For pancreatic cancer, it is administered to patients whose disease is advanced or has metastasized and whose disease cannot be surgically removed and who have already been treated with other chemotherapy.

Nab-paclitaxel is approved for patients with advanced breast cancer and is experimental in pancreatic cancer patients. It is a combination of proven chemotherapy, paclitaxel, with albumin, a tiny protein that is used to deliver the drug. Pancreatic cancer patients have high levels of an albumin-binding protein, SPARC, which is the intended target of nab-paclitaxel.

The new pancreatic cancer treatment is already being tested in a worldwide study of 842 patients conducted by Dr. Von Hoff and Dr. Ramanathan. This trial is comparing the new combination treatment against the standard treatment of gemcitabine.

National Cancer Institute
Von Hoff DD et al. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2011 Oct 3; doi: 10.1200/JCO.2011.36.5742



During this time of heightened awareness for pancreatic cancer, clinical trials may be our best chance of finding a cure. For those who may not be candidates for nab-paclitaxel or gemcitabine, other options can be found at http://www.pancreaticcancer-clinicaltrials.com.