Advancements in the Management of Pancreatic Cancer: 2013
Pancreatic cancer still remains a significant, unresolved therapeutic challenge and is the most lethal type of gastrointestinal cancer with a 5-year survival rate of 5%. Adjuvant chemotherapy remains to be gemcitabine alone, though fluorouracil offers the same survival and role of radiation remains controversial. Nevertheless, only a few patients survive for at least 5 years after R0 resection and adjuvant therapy. Borderline resectable pancreatic cancer remains an area that requires multi-disciplinary approach. Neo-adjuvant therapy very likely plays a role to downstage to a resectable state in these subgroup patients. There are different treatment approaches to locally advanced pancreatic cancer management, including single or multi-agent chemotherapy, chemotherapy followed by chemoradiation, or immediate concurrent chemoradiation. Most patients need palliative treatment. Once pancreatic cancer becomes metastatic, it is uniformly fatal with an overall survival of generally 6 months from time of diagnosis. Gemcitabine has been the standard since 1997. FOLFIRINOX (5-fluorouracil, oxaliplatin, irinotecan, leucovorin) has already shown superiority over gemcitabine in both progression-free survival and overall survival, but this regimen is suitable only for selected patients in ECOG performance status 0-1. FOLFIRINOX has already trickled down to the clinic in various modifications and in different patient groups, both locally advanced and metastatic. Many targeted agents, including bevacizumab, cetuximab showed negative results, except mild benefit with addition of erlotinib with gemcitabine, which was not considered clinically significant. There is no consensus regarding treatment in the second-line setting. It will be true to say that there was a real medical breakthrough with regards to improving the prognosis of pancreatic cancer as of 2013 with the results of MPACT study. In this study, patients who received nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine lived a median of 8.5 months, compared with 6.7 months for those who received gemcitabine alone. At the end of one year, 35% of those getting nab-paclitaxel were alive, compared with 22% of those getting only gemcitabine. After two years, the figures were 9% for those getting nab-paclitaxel and 4% for those who received gemcitabine.
Image: The "Project Purple Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund" established by Tufts Medical Center. Boston, MA, USA.
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