Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is reporting that its researchers, led by oncologist J. Marc Pipas, M.D., have devised a new treatment for pancreatic cancer. According to the medical center, up to fifty percent of patients in the study responded to the novel therapy, which is one of the highest response rates ever seen for pancreatic CA:
“The only way to cure these tumors is to remove them completely,” explains Pipas. “You try to do something to make sure there is no microscopic disease left. If you can’t remove it, the prognosis is poor.”
In the Norris Cotton Cancer Center trial, 24 patients were treated with short course, high dose chemotherapy of docetaxel and gemcitabine, followed by a combination of radiation and twice-weekly low-dose gemcitabine. Chemotherapy doses in this trial were higher than previously attempted.
Results showed that 50% of tumors shrank by at least a third, including complete disappearance of a tumor in a patient who previously had been judged inoperable. No tumors progressed during treatment.
The ability to shrink a pancreatic tumor is important because in order to eradicate the cancer, the tumor must be small enough to be completely removed without damaging major blood vessels surrounding the pancreas. Seventeen patients in the study underwent surgery, including nine previously considered inoperable or borderline operable. Subsequent follow-up showed that no patient whose tumor was surgically removed had a local recurrence of the disease, and no patient whose disease was considered inoperable had local progression.
Because the treatment Pipas and his team developed is allowing more patients the option of surgery, it is now the standard treatment for pancreatic cancer at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.
In a new study, Pipas is using gemcitabine and radiation in combination with cetuximab (Erbitux®), an antibody treatment. Norris Cotton Cancer Center is the only center testing this treatment for pancreatic cancer.
More at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center…