Note: Some citations in the text of this section are followed by a level of evidence. The PDQ editorial boards use a formal ranking system to help the reader judge the strength of evidence linked to the reported results of a therapeutic strategy. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Levels of Evidence for more information.)
The low objective response rate and lack of survival benefit with current chemotherapy indicates clinical trials as appropriate treatment of all newly diagnosed patients. Occasional patients have palliation of symptoms when treated by chemotherapy with well-tested older drugs such as fluorouracil (5-FU). Gemcitabine has demonstrated activity in patients with pancreatic cancer and is a useful palliative agent.[1,2,3] A phase III trial of gemcitabine versus 5-FU as first-line therapy in patients with advanced or metastatic adenocarcinoma of the pancreas reported a significant improvement in survival among patients treated with gemcitabine (1-year survival was 18% with gemcitabine as compared with 2% with 5-FU, P = .003).[Level of evidence: 1iiA] A preliminary report, in abstract form, of a phase III trial (CAN-NCIC-PA3) comparing gemcitabine alone versus the combination of gemcitabine and erlotinib (100 mg/day) in patients with advanced or metastatic pancreatic carcinomas showed that erlotinib modestly prolonged survival when combined with gemcitabine alone. Differences in overall survival (OS) favored the erlotinib arm (hazard ratio = 0.81; 95% confidence interval, 0.67-0.97; P = .025). The corresponding median and 1-year survival rates for patients receiving erlotinib versus placebo were 6.37 months and 5.91 months, and 24% versus 17%, respectively.[Level of evidence: 1iiA] When 5-FU was added to gemcitabine and compared with gemcitabine alone, the median survival of patients with advanced or metastatic disease (6.7 months vs. 5.7 months, respectively, P = .09) was not significantly improved.[Level of evidence: 1iiA]
Among common cancers, pancreatic cancer has one of the poorest prognoses. Because pancreatic cancer often grows and spreads long before it causes any symptoms, only about 5% of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis.
For some pancreatic patients, however, a complex surgery known as the Whipple procedure may extend life and could be a potential cure. Those who undergo the Whipple procedure have a five-year survival rate of about 20%.
The classic Whipple procedure is named after Allen...
Clinical trials evaluating new anticancer agents alone or in combination with chemotherapy.[6,7,8,9,10,11,13,19,20,21,22,23,24]
Current Clinical Trials
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage IV pancreatic cancer. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.
General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.
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Kulke MH, Blaszkowsky LS, Ryan DP, et al.: Capecitabine plus erlotinib in gemcitabine-refractory advanced pancreatic cancer. J Clin Oncol 25 (30): 4787-92, 2007.
Polati E, Finco G, Gottin L, et al.: Prospective randomized double-blind trial of neurolytic coeliac plexus block in patients with pancreatic cancer. Br J Surg 85 (2): 199-201, 1998.
van den Bosch RP, van der Schelling GP, Klinkenbijl JH, et al.: Guidelines for the application of surgery and endoprostheses in the palliation of obstructive jaundice in advanced cancer of the pancreas. Ann Surg 219 (1): 18-24, 1994.
Sohn TA, Lillemoe KD, Cameron JL, et al.: Surgical palliation of unresectable periampullary adenocarcinoma in the 1990s. J Am Coll Surg 188 (6): 658-66; discussion 666-9, 1999.
Baron TH: Expandable metal stents for the treatment of cancerous obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract. N Engl J Med 344 (22): 1681-7, 2001.
Rougier P, Adenis A, Ducreux M, et al.: A phase II study: docetaxel as first-line chemotherapy for advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Eur J Cancer 36 (8): 1016-25, 2000.
Bramhall SR, Rosemurgy A, Brown PD, et al.: Marimastat as first-line therapy for patients with unresectable pancreatic cancer: a randomized trial. J Clin Oncol 19 (15): 3447-55, 2001.
Stathopoulos GP, Mavroudis D, Tsavaris N, et al.: Treatment of pancreatic cancer with a combination of docetaxel, gemcitabine and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor: a phase II study of the Greek Cooperative Group for Pancreatic Cancer. Ann Oncol 12 (1): 101-3, 2001.
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