Combining two chemotherapy drugs for advanced gallbladder and bile duct cancer improves survival by a third, according to results from a Cancer Research UK funded trial presented today at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference*.
The trial, run by the Cancer Research UK & UCL Cancer Trials Centre**, was the largest ever phase III clinical trial for these cancers. They found that for patients receiving both gemcitabine and cisplatin it reduced the chance of the cancer growing by 28 per cent.
Also, patients given this combination of drugs lived longer – on average 11.7 months compared to 8.3 months for those on the trial receiving gemcitabine alone.
The trial, called ABC02, recruited over 400 UK patients with advanced gallbladder and bile duct cancer which can’t be operated on. One group had a combination of gemcitabine and cisplatin and the second group were treated with gemcitabine alone. The treatment lasted for 24 weeks for both groups of patients.
Gallbladder and bile duct cancers are rare and very difficult to treat in the advanced stages. Of those diagnosed with the disease only around one in 10 will survive for more than five years.
Dr Juan Valle, consultant oncologist at The Christie in Manchester and co chief investigator for the trial***, said: “This important trial has shown that adding cisplatin to gemcitabine slowed cancer progression and extended survival for these rare but hard-to-treat cancers, with minimal side effects. This establishes the combination treatment cisplatin and gemcitabine as an international standard of care for patients with advanced gallbladder and bile duct cancers.
“If gallbladder cancer is picked up early, the best treatment is an operation to remove it. But often the disease isn’t detected in time as there are few symptoms in the early stages. This makes it vital to find the best chemotherapy treatment for people in this situation.”
The trial started in May 2005 and finished in September 2008.
Kate Law, director of clinical trials at Cancer Research UK, said: “Treating advanced gallbladder and bile duct cancer is very difficult and these results make us hopeful of adding precious extra months to a person’s life. We are committed to find new treatments for patients with rare and hard to treat cancers and hope these trial results will improve the way these cancers are treated across the world.”
*The ASCO annual conference takes place in Orlando, Florida from Friday 29 May – Tuesday 2 June, 2009.
**The trial was conducted in the National Cancer Research Network
***Other chief investigators for the trial are Dr John Bridgewater and Dr Harpreet Wasan