Pancreatic cancer: medical management (novel chemotherapeutics)

David Páez, Melissa J Labonte, Heinz-Josef Lenz, Melissa LaBonte Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the fourth leading cause of cancer death and has an extremely poor prognosis: The 5-year survival probability is less than 5% for all stages. The only chance for cure or longer survival is surgical resection; however, only 10% to 20% of patients have resectable disease. Although surgical techniques have improved, most who undergo complete resection experience a recurrence. Adjuvant systemic therapy reduces the recurrence rate and improves outcomes. There is a potential role for radiation therapy as part of treatment for locally advanced disease, although its use in both the adjuvant and neoadjuvant settings remains controversial. Palliative systemic treatment is the only option for patients with metastatic disease. To date, however, only the gemcitabine plus erlotinib combination, and recently the FOLFIRINOX regimen, have been associated with relatively small but statistically significant improvements in OS when compared directly with gemcitabine alone. Although several meta-analyses have suggested a benefit associated with combination chemotherapy, whether this benefit is clinically meaningful remains unclear, particularly in light of the enhanced toxicity associated with combination regimens. There is growing evidence that the exceptionally poor prognosis in PC is caused by the tumor's characteristic abundant desmoplastic stroma that plays a critical role in tumor cell growth, invasion, metastasis, and chemoresistance. Carefully designed clinical trials that include translational analysis will provide a better understanding of the tumor biology and its relation to the host stromal cells. Future directions will involve testing of new targeted agents, understanding the pharmacodynamics of our current targeted agents, searching for predictive and prognostic biomarkers, and exploring the efficacy of different combinations strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-209
Number of pages21
JournalGastroenterology clinics of North America
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • Chemoradiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms


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