New Treatments May Boost Pancreatic Cancer Odds

Innovative ways of using chemotherapy can significantly extend the lives of patients with pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly cancers known, two new clinical trials report.

A four-drug chemo “cocktail” extended surgical patients’ lives by nearly two years over the current standard single-drug chemo regimen for pancreatic cancer, a clinical trial out of France has shown.

“You take overall survival from just under three years to almost five years,” said Dr. Daniel Labow, a cancer surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “That, for pancreas cancer, is a relative home run because survival in general is so poor.”

Meanwhile, a second preliminary study from the Netherlands found that combining chemotherapy and radiation therapy before pancreatic cancer surgery extended overall survival, particularly for those patients whose tumors were successfully removed.

Results from the studies were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting, in Chicago.

Both studies offer hope for people with a cancer that typically evades early detection and is incredibly difficult to treat, ASCO President Dr. Bruce Johnson said.

“About 95 percent of patients who get pancreatic cancer will die from it,” said Johnson, chief clinical research officer at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. “This is a pretty grim one. It’s identified by the United States Congress as one of the two worst cancers to get.” The other is small-cell lung cancer.

The two trials show that both preoperative and postoperative chemotherapy are essential for extending the lives of pancreatic cancer patients, Labow said.

“If you combine these two trials, theoretically you may be getting the benefit of both,” he said. That’s what researchers will be looking at now, he added.

Research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

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