A new study from the National Cancer Center Hospital in Tokyo, Japan focused on pancreatic cancer and they found that if a pancreatic cancer patient is given the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine after surgery, it can delay the progression of the disease by about six months. The overall results were that the drug gemcitabine was able to more than double the average disease free survival from 4.9 months to 11.4 months. The disease free survival of 11.4 months and is very impressive because it equates out to an improvement, or reduction in the risk of 41%. Pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest to treats and getting results like this is very difficult to achieve.
The prognosis for pancreatic cancer patients is one of the poorest. In most cases, by the time it is diagnosed, it has already spread and surgery is an option in just bout 20% of the patients. But, even in those cases where surgery is an option and it is done, the cancer normally will return and about 50% of the patients pass away within about 20 months of being diagnosed and is not used for the patients who have had surgery.
Concerning the pancreatic cancer patients whose tumor can be removed, they are looking into whether or not chemotherapy or chemo-radiation might be the course to follow. But there is no accepted treatment for those patients whose pancreas has been removed. The only course of action that is taken how is to just observe the patient at regular intervals.
This latest study had 118 participants whose pancreatic cancer could be cut out. They were broken down into tow groups. One group was given gemcitabine chemotherapy after surgery and the other group was just closely monitored by physicians. They followed up with both groups for more than 20 months.
In the group who received the gemcitabine, the cancer returned in 72% of the participants and in the group that did not get any medication, it was 85%.
The average overall survival rate, regardless of whether or not the disease had progressed, was better in the group that had received the gemcitabine, but not at a significant level.
Therefore their recommendation for patients who have had surgery is that they receive chemotherapy with gemcitabine along with regular observation. They feel that this will be the optimal course of treatment for these patients.
This study also supports the findings of a previous German study that also found that gemcitabine delays progression of the disease after surgery.
The lead researcher on the project is Dr. Tomoo Kosuge, deputy director of the National Cancer Center Hospital in Tokyo, Japan.
Source: European cancer Conference http://www.ecco-org.eu/