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Chemo combo improves pancreatic cancer survival

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A new chemotherapy combination should become the standard treatment for patients with the disease, according to researchers.

Latest trial resulted suggest an extra 13% of pancreatic cancer patients will live for at least five years when given a combination of two chemotherapy drugs, compared with standard treatment.

“This drug combination could give pancreatic patients valuable extra months and even years”

John Neoptolemos

Taking place in many hospitals across the UK, Germany, Sweden and France, the study involved 732 patients who had surgery to remove their tumour.

Around half received gemcitabine, the standard chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, and the other half received it in combination with capecitabine.

The trial showed that 29% of patients given both drugs in combination lived at least five years, compared with only 16% of patients given gemcitabine alone.

There was no significant difference in side effects between the patients on the standard treatment and the combination treatment, said the researchers.

This trial was set up in 2008 by Cancer Research UK to address the poor pancreatic cancer survival rates.

The charity’s latest figures show that around 9,400 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the UK and around 8,800 people annually die from the disease.

University of Liverpool

Chemo combo improves pancreatic cancer survival

John Neoptolemos

Trial lead Professor John Neoptolemos, from the University of Liverpool, said: “This important trial shows that this drug combination could give pancreatic patients valuable extra months and even years, and so will become the new treatment for patients with this disease.

“The difference in short term survival may seem modest, but improvement in long-term survival is substantial for this cancer,” he said.

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, highlighted that pancreatic cancer remained a “very difficult disease to find and treat”.

“Despite this, we are making steady progress, through trials like this one, where the use of better chemotherapy after surgery was able to increase the number of people surviving,” he said.

The trial results were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual conference on Friday in Chicago.

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