Health Library Explorer
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A-Z Listings Contact Us
Health Encyclopedia

Additional Treatments Offer Little Benefit for Pancreatic Cancer: Study

TUESDAY, May 3, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Additional treatments for locally advanced pancreatic cancer don't appear to boost survival, a new French study reports.

Researchers looked at the effects of adding a second drug -- erlotinib (Tarceva) -- to the initial round of chemotherapy. They also tested whether adding radiation to a second round of chemotherapy (chemoradiotherapy) would offer any survival benefit.

Unfortunately, the addition of the second drug didn't help people live longer, and those on chemoradiotherapy didn't fare any better.

"Chemoradiotherapy was not superior to chemotherapy," said the study's senior author, Dr. Pascal Hammel. Hammel is from the department of gastroenterology-pancreatology at Beaujon Hospital, in Clichy, France.

The study was funded by the pharmaceutical company Roche, the maker of Tarceva, and the French National Institute of Cancer.

More than 53,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer annually, the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) says. About 42,000 Americans die each year from the disease, the NCI reports.

The new study focused on 449 people with pancreatic cancer. Their average age was just over 63.

All received standard four-month chemotherapy with the drug gemcitabine (Gemzar). Gemzar is currently used to treat a range of cancers, including pancreatic, ovarian, breast, and non-small cell lung cancers, the drug's labeling information says. For the study, about half the patients (219) also took Tarceva along with Gemzar.

After completing initial treatment, imaging tests revealed that 269 patients appeared to have tumors that were under control. That meant their cancer was stable and didn't appear to have spread, or metastasized.

But the tumors couldn't be surgically removed because they had developed around the arteries surrounding the pancreas, study authors said.

About half this group of stable patients (136) received two additional months of the same chemotherapy regimen. The other half (133) was treated with a combination of radiation and the chemotherapy drug capecitabine (Xeloda).

After three years of follow-up, the researchers found that patients given Gemzar chemotherapy alone survived an average of 13.6 months. Those given the combination of Gemzar and Tarceva had an average survival of 11.9 months, the study found.

Patients treated with chemoradiotherapy lived an average of 15.2 months. Those who got chemotherapy alone lived an average of 16.5 months, the study found.

Hammel said there's still work to be done to improve the results of both chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.

But for now, Dr. Deborah Schrag agreed that "the French trial demonstrates that routine addition of chemo-radiation following initial chemotherapy for patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer does not improve survival compared to continued chemotherapy." Schrag, chief of the Division of Population Sciences, Medical Oncology, at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, wrote an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal.

"[And] given the burdens of daily radiation therapy, there is no routine role for the application of this treatment strategy," added Schrag.

Schrag said it's possible there might be a certain group of pancreatic cancer patients who could get some measurable benefit from radiation. "Further evaluation of the tumor samples from the study participants might help to more precisely determine who might benefit from radiation, and such data are eagerly awaited," she said.

More information

There's more on pancreatic cancer at U.S. National Cancer Institute.

SOURCES: Pascal Hammel, M.D, Ph.D., department of gastroenterology-pancreatology, Beaujon Hospital, Clichy, France; Deborah Schrag, M.D., M.P.H., chief of the Division of Population Sciences, Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, both in Boston; May 3, 2016, JAMA

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Contact Our Health Professionals
Connect With Us
About Us

Our web site is designed to provide general information to educate users about programs and services, which may be available through our hospitals. The web site is not intended to provide medical advice nor should the information be used to attempt to determine the presence, absence or severity of any illness or medical condition which may be perceived or experienced by the user of this site. If you have or suspect you may have an illness or condition which you believe requires medical attention, we recommend you call your primary care physician. If you believe you are experiencing a medical emergency please call "911" (or your local medical emergency number) or seek immediate care from the nearest hospital Emergency Department. The provision of information to users of this web site is not intended as an inducement or to otherwise influence a person's decision to order or receive any item or service from a particular provider, practitioner or supplier that is reimbursable under Medicare, a state healthcare program (e.g., AHCCS) or any other healthcare plan.

Physicians are members of the medical staff at each facility, but are independent contractors who are neither employees nor agents of Good Samaritan Medical Center; and, as a result, Good Samaritan Medical Center is not responsible for the actions of any of these physicians in their medical practices.