Despite advances in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of pancreatic cancer, the disease remains a clinical challenge. Gemcitabine, the standard chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, offers modest improvement of tumor-related symptoms and marginal advantage of survival. New approaches, alone and in combination with gemcitabine, are being developed to combat this cancer. Combination chemotherapy trials incorporating gemcitabine, cisplatin, 5- fluorouracil, oxaliplatin, or irinotecan generally show improved outcomes in objective response rates but with little or no improvement in survival in phase III trials. In this article, the author describes the key studies presented at the Annual Meeting of ASCO, held in Atlanta, GA from June 2nd to 6th. The studies discussed here include the following: RTOG 9704 (#4007), FFCDSFRO study (#4008), meta-analysis of gemcitabine plus cisplatin and gemcitabine plus oxaliplatin vs. gemcitabine alone (GERCOR #4003), and ECOG 6201 (Late Breaking Abstract #4004). Based on the results presented at the annual meeting, it comes to us that patients with locally advanced vs. metastatic pancreatic cancer should be studied separately, better understanding of the biology of pancreatic cancer is mandatory and evaluation of novel agents is crucial. We as oncologist have to change our attitudes towards clinical trials and need to think beyond a trial design such as gemcitabine vs. drug of our choice. Environment within which research is being conducted also has to be changed and last but not the least, access to trials for patients with pancreatic cancer is the key step in the fight against pancreatic cancer.
Muhammad Wasif Saif