Sarah Goodwin

Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
July 27, 1998

Cancer researchers at Emory University's Winship Cancer Center are testing a new treatment that may "outsmart" one of the deadliest forms of the disease, pancreatic cancer.

A combination of four cancer drugs that have proven minimally effective by themselves has shown promising results in early trials. All 10 patients currently enrolled in the trial have responded to the drug combination, and one is in complete remission.

Patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are typically given a very poor prognosis, primarily because once the disease is detectable, it has spread to other parts of the body. For those diagnosed early enough, surgery is an option, but even when tumors are considered resectable, long-term survival rates are low and the chance the cancer has already spread is high.

Chemotherapy is used in cancer therapy to treat metastatic disease but it has not been shown to be highly effective in treating pancreatic cancer. Each of the four study drugs - gemcitabine, cisplatin, 5FU and leucovorin - has shown some small effectiveness, but when used together, they seem to "outsmart" the cancer.

"These agents work on one pathway each," says Charles Staley, M.D., Emory surgical oncologist and principal investigator for the study. "Tumors outsmart the treatment by using several pathways and getting around it. The thought is that if the treatment uses more than one pathway, it will have a better chance to kill the tumor."

Of the patients currently on the medication, one is in remission, eight had a partial response and one had a minor response.

Researchers are currently working to find the maximal tolerated dosage of the medication that will benefit the patient, and are looking at a different method of drug delivery. Using a continuous drip rather than a bolus may reduce toxicity associated with the medication.

The Phase I trial is currently only enrolling patients at Emory. Investigators are looking for 10 more patients with either pancreatic or gastric cancer, who have advanced metastatic or advanced localized disease. Patients must also be in good health other than the cancer. For more information about this study, contact Mary Myers, Winship Cancer Center research nurse, at (404) 778-4449.

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