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Gemcitabine after Pancreatic Cancer Surgery Improves Survival

Patients who received the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine after surgery for pancreatic cancer lived two months longer than patients who had surgery alone, according to the final results of a large, randomized clinical trial presented at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Less than 20 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer are candidates for surgery, because the disease is often detected in the late stages. Gemcitabine has been a standard treatment for patients with advanced (and inoperable) pancreatic cancer for a decade. The new findings support use of the drug in the adjuvant setting.

"We have shown that this treatment more than doubles the overall survival five years after treatment," said Dr. Helmut Oettle of the Charité School of Medicine in Berlin, Germany, who presented the results.

The study included 368 patients who underwent surgery followed by six months of adjuvant gemcitabine treatment or surgery alone. In the gemcitabine group, 21 percent were alive at five years compared with 9 percent in the control group. Median survival in the gemcitabine group was 22.8 months compared with 20.2 months in the control group.

Preliminary results from the trial were reported at ASCO in 2005 and showed that post-surgery gemcitabine could delay a recurrence of the disease. These findings led to an increase in the use of the drug in the United States and Europe, according to the researchers.

"We can now say that giving this agent after surgery to patients with early stage disease will improve a patient's survival," commented Dr. Nicholas Petrelli of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center (Wilmington, Del.) at the meeting. "We couldn't say that before."





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