According to results recently published in the journal Drugs and Aging, the combination of Gemzar® (gemcitabine) with a second chemotherapy agent provides small but significant improvements in survival compared with Gemzar only in the treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer.
The pancreas is an organ 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 break down food and also produces hormones, such as insulin, to regulate the body’s storage and use of food.
Pancreatic cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of all cancers. Pancreatic cancer is often called a “silent killer” because its symptoms are usually not recognizable until it has advanced and spread outside the pancreas. As a result the majority of pancreatic cancers are not diagnosed until they have reached advanced stages and are considered incurable. Researchers continue to evaluate novel ways to treat pancreatic cancer in order to extend survival for these patients.
The chemotherapy agent Gemzar is commonly used as treatment for pancreatic cancer. The addition of a second chemotherapy agent to Gemzar, referred to as a Gemzar-based doublet, is also a common therapeutic approach for this disease. Researchers from France recently evaluated the true benefit of adding a second chemotherapy agent to Gemzar for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. The researchers conducted a study that reviewed 23 clinical trials, which included 5,886 patients with advanced pancreatic cancer; these patients had been treated with either a Gemzar-based doublet or Gemzar alone.
- At six months patients treated with Gemzar-based doublets had an 8% reduced risk of death compared with patients treated with Gemzar alone.
- At 12 months patients treated with Gemzar-based doublets had a 4% reduced risk of death compared with patients treated with Gemzar alone.
- At 18 months patients treated with Gemzar-based doublets had a 3% reduced risk of death compared with patients treated with Gemzar alone.
The researchers concluded that the addition of a second chemotherapy agent to Gemzar provides small but significant improvement in survival compared with Gemzar alone in the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer. Patients with advanced pancreatic cancer may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of all available therapies.
Reference: Banu E, Banu A, Fodor A, et al. Meta-analysis of randomised trials comparing gemcitabine-based doublets versus gemcitabine alone in patients with advanced and metastatic pancreatic cancer. Drugs and Aging. 2007;24:865-879.