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Chemotherapy boosts survival rates for pancreatic cancer

by British Journal of Cancer | News

21 January 2009

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The use of chemotherapy following surgery reduces the risk of death from operable pancreatic cancer by around 30 per cent, says new research published in the British Journal of Cancer* today.

Pancreatic cancer is the tenth most common cancer. Nearly 7,600 people are diagnosed with the disease in the UK each year. But, survival rates remain a major concern – only around two or three per cent of patients survive for more than five years.

The new research, funded by Cancer Research UK, shows that patients who had surgery and chemotherapy with a drug called 5FU alongside folinic acid, had a five year survival rate of 24 per cent. This was compared to 14 per cent for those who only had surgery.

The researchers used the results of three clinical trials undertaken by The European Study Group for Pancreatic Cancer (ESPAC) to compare data of over 450 patients.

The study confirms the results of previous research which suggests patients who had surgery and chemotherapy had better a chance of survival than patients who only had surgery.

Professor John Neoptolemos, lead researcher based at the University of Liverpool, said: “Pancreatic cancer continues to be one of the hardest cancers to treat and has very low survival rates.

“These results show that chemotherapy after surgery is the best way to treat patients, giving people precious extra months or even years of life.

“There is still a long way to go before we can really reduce the number of people that die from the disease but this research moves us in the right direction. The next step will be to investigate different combinations of drugs to see if they work any better than this treatment.”

Kate Law, director of clinical trials at Cancer Research UK, said: “In the past it has been unclear what the best way to treat pancreatic cancer is. But, these results reinforce previous trial findings and show undoubtedly that chemotherapy after surgery offers the best hope for patients who have operable pancreatic cancer.

“Cancer Research UK recently launched a five year strategy to specifically target cancers with poor survival rates such as pancreatic cancer.

“Huge advancements have been made in beating cancer over the past thirty years. But progress has been faster in some areas than others. The strategy focuses our attention on those areas which will have the greatest impact on reducing cancer deaths in the future and on achieving our goals.”


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