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January 16, 2007

Chemotherapy After Surgery Delays Pancreatic Cancer Recurrence

Topics: Pancreatic Cancer

Some welcome news in the battle against pancreatic cancer:


Cancer of the pancreas is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. This year approximately 32,000 Americans will die from cancer of the pancreas. The disease is not only common, it is also extremely difficult to treat. For these and other reasons, cancer of the pancreas has been called "the challenge of the twenty-first century." However, in the Jan. 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, German researchers report that people who took the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine following pancreatic cancer surgery lived disease-free an average of six months longer than those who had only the surgery.

... "Pancreatic cancer is an extremely malignant tumor, and even if the disease is diagnosed at an early stage and the tumor can be completely [removed], the risk of relapse and early death remains high," explained the study's lead author, Dr. Helmut Oettle, an associate professor at the Charite School of Medicine in Berlin.

"Gemcitabine prolonged median disease-free survival significantly by more than six months -- 13.4 months [for the gemcitabine group] compared to 6.9 months after observation alone," Oettle said.

... All underwent surgical resection -- removal -- of the tumor. Then, half were treated with six cycles of gemcitabine every four weeks, and half received no additional treatment.

The average time before follow-up was 53 months. At the end of the study, 74 percent of the gemcitabine group and 92 percent of the control group had developed recurrent cancer.

The average time of disease-free survival -- meaning the length of time before the cancer returned -- was 13.4 months for the gemcitabine group compared to 6.9 months for the control group.

During the study period, however, there was no significant difference between the two groups in overall survival. The median survival for those in the gemcitabine group was 22.1 months, compared to 20.2 months for the control group.

But more people on gemcitabine lived disease-free longer: at three years 23.5 percent for the gemcitabine group, compared to 7.5 percent of the control group.

More at HealthDay ...

From the NCI site : Research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop pancreatic cancer. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease.

Studies have found the following risk factors:

* Age -- The likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer increases with age. Most pancreatic cancers occur in people over the age of 60.

* Smoking -- Cigarette smokers are two or three times more likely than nonsmokers to develop pancreatic cancer.

* Diabetes -- Pancreatic cancer occurs more often in people who have diabetes than in people who do not.

* Being male -- More men than women are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

* Being African American -- African Americans are more likely than Asians, Hispanics, or whites to get pancreatic cancer.

* Family history -- The risk for developing pancreatic cancer triples if a person's mother, father, sister, or brother had the disease. Also, a family history of colon or ovarian cancer increases the risk of pancreatic cancer.

* Chronic pancreatitis -- Chronic pancreatitis is a painful condition of the pancreas. Some evidence suggests that chronic pancreatitis may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Other studies suggest that exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace or a diet high in fat may increase the chance of getting pancreatic cancer.

Most people with known risk factors do not get pancreatic cancer. On the other hand, many who do get the disease have none of these factors. People who think they may be at risk for pancreatic cancer should discuss this concern with their doctor. The doctor may suggest ways to reduce the risk and can plan an appropriate schedule for checkups.

In other news on pancreatic cancer, scientists have new evidence that gum disease may be linked to more serious health problems - such as pancreatic cancer.

Posted by Richard at January 16, 2007 10:53 PM

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