A novel chemotherapy regimen followed by radiation appears to be safe and effective for patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer, resulting in an overall survival of 66%. These study results were presented at the 2010 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in Orlando, Florida.[1]

Pancreatic cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of all cancers. It accounts for less than 3% of all newly diagnosed cancers in the United States each year but 6% of all cancer deaths. 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 conducted a multicenter Phase II trial that involved 69 treatment-naïve patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer. They were assigned two cycles of Erbitux® (cetuximab), Gemzar® (gemcitabine), and Eloxatin® (oxaliplatin). Patients whose disease had not progressed then received radiation with concurrent chemotherapy treatment consisting of Erbitux and Xeloda® (capecitabine). 

The primary endpoint of the study was one-year survival, with researchers hoping to see a result greater than 45%. In fact, overall survival at one year was 66%. The therapy was reasonably well-tolerated, with 19 grade 3/4 events reported. The researchers concluded that this regimen appears to be effective with acceptable toxicity. Future studies will likely continue to evaluate this combination. 

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[1] Crane CH, Varadhachary GR, Javle MM, et al. Multi-institutional phase II trial of induction cetuximab, gemcitabine, and oxaliplatin, followed by radiotherapy with concurrent capeceitabine, and cetuximab, for locally advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma (LAPC). Presented at the 2010 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in Orlando, Florida. January 22-24. Abstract #132.