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Four-Drug Combo Ups Pancreatic Cancer Survival

Small study offers hope for patients with this lethal disease

THURSDAY, May 12, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A combination therapy involving four chemotherapy drugs could double survival rates for patients with tough-to-treat pancreatic cancer, researchers report.

The Italian study included pancreatic cancer patients aged 18 to 70 years. Fifty-two received a combo treatment of cisplatin, epirubicin, gemcitabine and fluorouracil -- called the PEGF regimen -- while another 47 received gemcitabine alone.

Because it is often caught too late, pancreatic cancer remains one of the most lethal malignancies. Gemcitabine is currently regarded as the standard treatment for the disease, with clinical trials finding it provides patients with a 17 to 28 percent one-year survival rate.

Four months into treatment, 60 percent of the patients in the PEGF group were alive without progressive disease, compared with just 28 percent of patients taking gemcitabine alone, the researchers report. One-year survival was 40 percent for the PEGF patients and 20 percent for those taking gemcitabine alone, they add.

More of the PEGF patients experienced blood-related side effects, but these were manageable and didn't harm their quality of life, the study authors said.

Writing in this week's online edition of the journal The Lancet Oncology, the researchers stressed that a larger study is needed before PEGF could be regarded as a new standard therapy.

"We have shown that patients allocated PEGF had a more favorable outcome in terms of progression-free survival and overall survival than did those allocated standard treatment with gemcitabine," researcher Dr. Michele Reni said in a prepared statement. The investigator remains hopeful, however, that "PEGF might be a feasible and effective first-line treatment for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer."

More information

The National Cancer Institute has more about pancreatic cancer.

SOURCE: The Lancet Oncology, news release, May 9, 2005
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