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New Hope for Tough-to-Treat Cancers
Date:5/31/2008

Gemzar, everolimus almost doubled survival time with pancreatic, kidney cancers, respectively

SATURDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- Patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer -- which historically carries a grim prognosis -- nearly doubled their overall survival when the cancer drug Gemzar was used after surgery, new research shows.

Unfortunately, only about 15 percent of pancreatic cancer patients are even candidates for surgery.

"Pancreatic cancer is probably the deadliest cancer that we face," said Dr. Richard Schilsky, president-elect of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. "It's frequently not even diagnosed until it's very far advanced, when treatments are not very effective."

Schilsky spoke at a teleconference earlier this month; the results of the new trial, a follow-up from data first presented in 2005, were released Saturday at ASCO's annual meeting in Chicago.

Gemzar (gemcitabine) is the standard treatment for pancreatic cancer that can't be removed surgically.

At three years, 23.5 percent of participants taking Gemzar had survived without a recurrence, versus 7.5 percent in the placebo group; that number dropped to 16.5 percent at five years, versus 5.5 percent in the control arm.

Overall, 36.5 percent of Gemzar patients were still alive at the five-year mark (vs. 19.5 percent in the placebo group) and 21 percent were still alive after five years (vs. 9 percent in placebo).

"Treatment with gemcitabine as compared to observational in patients with resected [surgically removed] pancreatic cancer resulted in improvements in disease-free survival and overall survival," said study co-author Dr. Helmut Oettle, of Charite University Medical School in Berlin. "Adjuvant treatment [with Gemzar] doubled long-term survival rate after five years compared with the observation group. Gemcitabine should be the
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