Who Wants To Live In A Toxic World?

Pancreatic cancer treatment regimen deemed too toxic

(RxWiki News) Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive. Combination chemotherapy has been the treatment mainstay for advanced disease. Now this approach is being questioned.

People with advanced pancreatic cancer lived longer with a combination of gemcitabine and other chemotherapy agents.

However, the therapy is so toxic as to basically zero out the benefit.

"Ask your doctor to be honest with you about treatment."

Italian researchers analyzed clinical trial information collected from large databases as well as abstracts from medical conferences. These trials took place between January, 1997 and January 2012.

Pierosandro Tagliaferri, MD, of the Medical Oncology Unit at Magna Graecia University and the Campanella Cancer Center in Catanzaro, Italy, led the team.

The earlier studies, for the most part, were evaluating how long someone lived – overall survival (OS) – after conventional treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer.

Researchers analyzed a total of 34 trials involving about 10,500 people with pancreatic cancer.

The previous studies showed that combination chemotherapy did extend the lives of study participants. So there was a survival benefit over using gemcitabine alone.

However, this therapy had quite serious side effects, including diarrhea and nausea. Low white blood cell and platelet counts were also seen, which can increase a person’s risk of infection and bleeding.

The study suggested that the toxic side effects of combination therapy outweighed the benefits for many people.

Gemcitabine – brand name Gemzar – is a chemotherapy agent that's used to treat bladder cancer, metastatic breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and soft-tissue sarcoma, as well as pancreatic cancer.

The authors wrote, “The combination chemotherapy as compared to gemcitabine alone significantly improves overall survival in advanced pancreatic cancer (APC). However, this advantage is marginal whereas the treatment-related toxicity is increased, suggesting the use of gemcitabine-based combination regimens only in selected patient populations. New prospective trials, based on translational approaches and innovative validated biomarkers, are eagerly awaited on this topic.”

This research was published in the September 17 issue of European Journal of Cancer.

No financial information was publicly available.



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Review Date: 
September 26, 2012