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TUESDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Treating pancreatic cancer patients with the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine (Gemzar) after surgery improved survival rates when compared to doing nothing, German researchers report.
However, one expert noted that the finding may not be clinically relevant anymore.
The trial showed the benefit of treatment over no treatment, said Dr. Nilofer Azad, director of the Phase 1 Clinical Trials Group at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore. "But more recently, the question has turned to what should that treatment be, not whether there should be a treatment," Azad noted.
Today, no patients would be randomized to no therapy, she added. "There are other drug combinations that we are looking at now. There are other novel treatments and experimental therapies we are looking at. Those are the open questions," Azad said.
For example, the findings of a Japanese study published in the April 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that an experimental drug plus gemcitabine improved survival longer than either drug alone, she noted.
Despite these advances, the overall picture for pancreatic cancer remains bleak, Azad added.
"It's still depressing. Pancreatic cancer still has the worst cure rate of any solid tumor. It's the fifth-leading killer even though it's rarer than common cancers, and we haven't made a substantial impact on it," she said.
What is really needed is a way to diagnose pancreatic cancer early, when it is still curable. "The best way we can lower the death rate from pancreatic cancer is to diagnose it when it is very early on," Azad stressed.
The latest report was published in the Oct. 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
For the study, a team led by Dr. Helmut Oettle, of the Charite-Universitatsmedizin in Berlin, gathered data on 354 patients with pancreatic cancer who had their tumor removed. These patients were randomly assigned to six months of treatment with gemcitabine or observation alone.
The patients began the study between July 1998 and December 2004, and were followed until September 2012.
By September 2012, 308 patients (87 percent) had relapsed. The average disease-free survival was 13.4 months among patients who received gemcitabine, compared with 6.7 months among those who received no treatment, the researchers found.
At the end of the study, 316 patients (nearly 90 percent) had died and 38 patients were still alive. Of those still living, 23 had been treated with gemcitabine while 15 hadn't, the study authors noted.
Oettle's group found a statistically significant difference in overall survival between the groups, with an average of 22.8 months for those taking gemcitabine, compared with 20.2 months for those in the observation-only group.
Among patients who received gemcitabine there was also a statistically significant absolute 10.3 percent improvement in five-year survival, compared with those who received no treatment (20.7 percent versus 10.4 percent) and a 4.5 percent improvement in the 10-year survival (12.2 percent versus 7.7 percent), the researchers found.
For more on pancreatic cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: Nilofer Azad, M.D., assistant professor, director, Phase I Clinical Trials Group, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Baltimore; Oct. 9, 2013, Journal of the American Medical Association
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Thu Oct 10, 2013 09:41 PM
Pancreatic Cancer can be defeated not by drugs but by diet. There are no symptoms but by using the AMAS blood test it can be detected up to 19 months in advance. Long before a pet-scan, mri or ct can even see it. The immune system should be rebuilt immediately. Patient should consider a strict diet such as Budwig. The patient Should research how a balanced alkalinity and oxygen supply may work in their favor. There are several things doctors of western medicine aren’t allowed to do. Find yourself an outstanding nutritionists who consentrates on treating the cause not the sympton.
Sat Oct 12, 2013 06:52 PM
Please, if you have pancreatic cancer- do not listen to the diet quacks. One of the things that makes the life of Steve Jobs meaningful is that he stands as an example. If you forego the opportunity for life saving surgery, you may die from a cancer that could have been cured. If you like to combine diet or anything else for that matter with western medicine, fine. But if you are lucky enough to be a candidate for surgery get it cut out and cut out now. I did, and I'm alive.
Sat Oct 19, 2013 01:31 AM
Wipple surgery sometimes works. Most of the diet quacks were nominated for Nobel prize. Many people who refuse surgery, radiation and chemo therapy have done very well. The medical industry says if you live 5 yrs your a survivor even if you die at 5yrs 1day. Many people who chose alternative medicine have been cured period. Ask your doctor if the chemo therapy will save your life. Ask him for a list of cancer cures and see what he tells you. Do not be rushed look before you leap. Its difficult to make good decisions under such stress.
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