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Treatment Strategy Extends Pancreatic Cancer Survival

Surgery followed by chemo, radiation may be better than surgery alone

TUESDAY, July 25, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A combination of chemotherapy plus radiation treatment soon after surgery may significantly improve survival for patients with deadly pancreatic cancer, researchers report.

Because it is often caught so late, pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat, and patients usually have poor survival.

This study by American and French researchers included 46 pancreatic cancer patients. Most of them had advanced disease with involvement of the lymph nodes.

Each patient received six weeks of daily radiation therapy to the upper abdomen, concurrent with twice-weekly doses of the drug gemcitabine, followed by two cycles of maintenance doses of gemcitabine alone.

As reported in the August issue of the British Journal of Cancer, patients on the combo therapy experienced a median survival of 18.3 months, compared to an average of 11 months for patients who undergo surgery alone. In this study, 69 percent of the patients were alive at one year, and 24 percent were alive at three years.

"The results of our study are promising, because they may reflect not only longer survival of these patients but also an improved local-regional control of the disease. In addition, because lower doses of gemcitabine were used, it proved to be a less toxic approach to treatment," lead investigator Dr. A. William Blackstock, associate professor of radiation oncology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.

The study received funding from drug maker Eli Lilly.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about pancreatic cancer.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, July 25, 2006
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