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New combination therapy after surgery improves survival for pancreatic cancer patients

Adding the cancer-fighting drug gemcitabine to standard therapy after surgery significantly improves survival for patients with the most common form of pancreatic cancer, according to a new multicenter study led by a University of Maryland radiation oncologist. The results of the four-year Phase III clinical trial were presented June 4 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Atlanta.

More than 500 patients at 128 institutions across the country, including the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, were enrolled in the federally funded study from 1998 to 2002.

Thirty-two percent of study participants with "pancreatic head adenocarcinoma" (cancer of the head, or wider part, of the pancreas) were still alive three years after diagnosis after having surgery and being treated with gemcitabine, another chemotherapy drug called 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and radiation therapy. That compares to a 21 percent three-year survival rate for patients who received 5-FU and radiation treatments alone following their surgery.

"The addition of gemcitabine to the standard postoperative treatment increased patients' survival by 50 percent, which is a significant improvement. We believe these findings will provide a new standard for treating patients with this devastating disease," says the principal investigator, William F. Regine, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chief of radiation oncology at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Dr. Regine adds that that the study will serve as a basis for additional research that may lead to more effective treatments for pancreatic cancer. Even with the new combination therapy, the median survival for patients in the study who received gemcitabine was 20.6 months compared to 16.9 months for the patients who had the standard therapy. Median survival is the point at which hal
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Contact: Karen Warmkessel
kwarmkessel@umm.edu
410-328-8919
University of Maryland Medical Center
4-Jun-2006


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