Study presented in Chicago finds rare gain for tough-to-treat pancreatic cancer

SHARE Study presented in Chicago finds rare gain for tough-to-treat pancreatic cancer

This microscope image shows pancreatic cancer cells — in blue — growing as a sphere encased in membranes, red. In a rare triumph for tough-to-beat pancreatic cancer, patients who had surgery lived substantially longer on a four-drug combo than on a standard cancer drug. | University of Southern California

Patients with pancreatic cancer that hadn’t spread lived substantially longer when given a combination of four drugs than on a single standard cancer drug — a rare advance for a tough-to-treat disease.

The results, presented in Chicago at an American Society of Clinical Oncology conference, indicate that the powerful chemotherapy treatment known as folfirinox will likely become standard of care for the minority of patients whose pancreatic cancer is diagnosed early enough to be removed by surgery, experts not involved in the study said.

Dr. Richard Schilsky, the group’s chief medical officer, called the research an “immediately practice-changing study” and said it’s the biggest advance for pancreatic cancer in 25 years.

After an average of three years of follow-up, nearly 40 percent of the folfirinox patients were disease-free — compared with about 20 percent who had the standard drug, Gemzar. Overall, almost two-thirds of folfirinox patients were still alive, versus nearly half of Gemzar patients.

Those were unexpectedly good results, said Dr. Thierry Conroy, the lead author and a cancer specialist at the Cancer Institute of Lorraine in Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy, France.

Folfirinox is already standard treatment for patients whose pancreatic cancer has spread.

The outlook has been bleak for patients with pancreatic cancer, an uncommon disease for which there is no screening. About 330,000 cases are diagnosed each year worldwide, including about 55,000 in the United States. About half are diagnosed after the disease has spread; most die within a year of diagnosis. Only about 6 percent survive for five years.

Schilsky said both Folfirinox and Gemzar are “pretty inexpensive” since the drugs are available as generics. Insurance typically covers both for metastatic cancer and gemcitabine for operable cancer, and it’s likely it would cover folfirinox for operable cancer if it becomes standard of care, which several experts say is expected.

The Latest
Third baseman Patrick Wisdom’s eighth-inning flyout had an exit velocity of 111 mph and would have been a homer in 20 MLB ballparks, according to Baseball Savant.
U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber, who died Tuesday, taught a one-man master class in life. A man of reason, a man in full, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather. A golfer, a raconteur, an intellectual who loved people, a teller of tall — but true — tales.
The week-long process begins Monday, when hopefuls can start turning in to Chicago election officials the minimum 1,000 signatures needed from residents who support their candidacy in one of 10 districts. The races will shape up by the June 24 deadline.
The final straw for Ald. David Moore and his constituents was the killing Sunday night of 18-year-old Trinity Boswell.
A total of $364 million is earmarked for Interstate 55 upgrades on 49 bridges from Wolf Road to the Chinatown feeder ramp, highlighted by full rebuilds of the Harlem and Cicero Avenue interchanges that are among the busiest in the state.