New Hope For Treating Pancreatic Cancer

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By Milind Javle, M.D., associate professor, Department of Gastrointestinal (GI) Medical Oncology, MD Anderson
Cancer Center

Recently, a clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine has offered new hope for patients suffering from pancreatic cancer.

This trial enrolled over 300 patients with advanced cancer of the pancreas, who were treated with either the standard chemotherapy with gemcitabine or with a four-drug chemotherapy combination called FOLFIRINOX.

A five-month improvement in survival was noted with FOLFIRINOX; this regimen also delayed cancer progression. This study is important because for the first time a drug combination has been shown to extend survival of pancreatic cancer patients by a significant degree over that offered by gemcitabine, alone.

It must be noted that this combination can be toxic, with low blood counts, infections, nerve injury and fatigue occurring in several patients.

Our own effort at MD Anderson has included the addition of an antibody directed against insulin pathway. We have noted sustained responses in some patients treated with the antibody MK-0646, without serious side effects. Our belief is that with further research, we will be able to target the cancer using specific biomarkers and improve survival of patients without serious side effects.

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