Among patients with inoperable locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer, combination chemotherapy with irinotecan and Gemzar® (gemcitabine) did not improve survival compared to chemotherapy with Gemzar alone. These results were published in the British Journal of Cancer.
The pancreas is an organ that is surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, bile ducts (tubes that connect the liver to the small intestine), gallbladder, liver, and spleen. The pancreas helps the body to break down food and produces hormones, such as insulin, to regulate the body’s storage and use of food.
Standard treatment for pancreatic cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy (typically including Gemzar), and/or radiation. Patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer typically have inoperable cancer, and only a minority survives for one year. Treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer is aimed at extending survival time and improving a patient’s quality of life by controlling symptoms caused by the disease.
Researchers continue to evaluate different chemotherapy combinations for the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer. A focus of this research has been to identify drugs that can be used in combination with Gemzar.
To evaluate the combination of irinotecan and Gemzar, researchers in Greece conducted a phase III clinical trial among 145 patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Half the patients were treated with Gemzar alone, and half were treated with Gemzar and irinotecan.
- A partial or complete disappearance of detectable cancer occurred in 15% of patients treated with Gemzar and irinotecan and 10% of patients treated with Gemzar alone.
- The time when cancer progressed was similar in the two groups. The time by which half the patients had experienced cancer progression was 2.8 months in the Gemzar and irinotecan group and 2.9 months in the Gemzar alone group.
- One-year survival was similar in the two groups. One-year survival was 24.3% in the Gemzar and irinotecan group and 21.8% in the Gemzar alone group.
The researchers conclude that the addition of irinotecan to Gemzar did not improve survival among patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Survival among patients treated with both drugs was similar to the survival among patients treated with Gemzar alone.
Reference: Stathopoulos GP, Syrigos K, Aravantinos G et al. A Multicenter Phase III Trial Comparing Irinotecan-gemcitabine (IG) with Gemcitabine (G) Monotherapy as First-line Treatment in Patients with Locally Advanced or Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer. British Journal of Cancer. 206;95:587-592.