A combination therapy that involves four chemotherapy drugs could double survival rates for patients who have pancreatic cancer, Italian researchers report. Because it is often detected in the late stages, this type of cancer is one of the most lethal malignancies.

The Study

The Italian study included pancreatic cancer patients ages 18 to 70 years. Fifty-two received the PEGF regimen, a combination treatment of cisplatin (Platinol), epirubicin (Ellence), gemcitabine (Gemzar) and fluorouracil (5-FU), while 47 received gemcitabine alone.

Gemcitabine is currently regarded as the standard treatment for the disease, with clinical trials finding it offers patients a 17% to 28% one-year survival rate.

Four months into treatment, 60% of the patients in the PEGF group were alive without progressive disease, compared with just 28% of patients taking gemcitabine alone, the researchers report. One-year survival was 40% for the PEGF patients and 20% for those in the gemcitabine group.

More of the PEGF patients had blood-related side effects, but these were manageable and did not affect their quality of life, the study authors say.


"We have shown that patients allocated PEGF had a more favorable outcome in terms of progression-free survival and overall survival than did those allocated standard treatment with gemcitabine," says researcher Dr. Michele Reni.

The researchers stress that a larger study is needed before PEGF could be regarded as a new standard therapy.

Reni remains hopeful, however that "PEGF might be a feasible and effective first-line treatment for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer."

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