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Clinical Trial Results Change Standard of Care for Pancreatic,Cancer Patients, Future Therapies Discussed

CHICAGO, June 05, 2007 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute's Philip A. Philip, M.D., Ph.D. F.R.C.P., professor of medicine and oncology, presented the outcome of one of the largest randomized phase III pancreas cancer clinical trials in North America and chaired an education session about the future of pancreatic cancer therapies at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago, IL.

The clinical trial, A Phase III Randomized Open-Label Study Comparing Gemcitabine Plus Cetuximab Versus Gemcitabine as First-Line Therapy of Patients with Advanced Pancreas Cancer, questioned the benefit of using Cetuximab to target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in advanced pancreatic cancer patients.

The EGFR is a protein found on the surface of some cancer cells and to which the epidermal growth factor binds, causing uncontrolled cell division -- a predisposition for cancer. The EGFR is found at abnormally high levels on the surface of most pancreatic cancer cells. This study examined the effectiveness of Cetuximab, an anticancer monoclonal antibody directed to block the EGFR, combined with the standard chemotherapy agent Gemcitabine prescribed for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.

Over 760 pancreatic cancer patients, throughout the U.S. and Canada, participated in the study which compared outcomes of Gemcitabine coupled with Cetuximab as first-line chemotherapy against single-agent Gemcitabine.

"Contrary to previous hypotheses, our study found Cetuximab, along with Gemcitabine, did not offer increased benefits in treating a patient's pancreatic cancer," said Dr. Philip.

Initiated by the Southwest Oncology Group, this study was a substantial accomplishment for the group, concluding two years earlier than their initial five-year goal.

"We were able to gather definitive answers in a shorter amount of time, al lowing us to move forward and explore other treatment strategies sooner than expected," explained Dr. Philip. "These results highlight the value of continued research to develop new drugs to fight pancreatic cancer. It also emphasizes the vital importance of offering patients the option to be on a clinical trial. This expedites the process of discovering better therapies for this difficult disease."

Dr. Philip will also chair today an education session titled, Rational Development of Systemic Therapies for Pancreatic Cancer: Bench to the Bedside, discussing lessons learned in treating pancreatic cancer and summarizing future endeavors based on the current knowledge including the advances in the molecular biology of pancreatic cancer.

Next Generation of Clinical Trials in Pancreas Cancer

The emergence of molecularly targeted agents has led to a dramatic increase in research activity and the number of new clinical trials in patients with all stages of pancreatic cancer. The next generation of clinical trials for pancreatic cancer patients will combine multiple drugs that affect several targets in the cancer cells. Attacking cancer cells from many angles lessens their ability to resist treatment. The ultimate goal is also to develop treatments based on a patient's unique genetic composition.

According to Dr. Philip, it is hoped that nationally increased awareness in the value of clinical trials for cancer patients will allow investigators to ask the maximum number of research questions in the shortest period of time, resulting in more effective therapies available to patients in a shorter amount of time.

ASCO is the world's leading professional organization representing physicians who treat people with cancer. ASCO's members set the standard for patient care worldwide and lead the way in carrying out clinical research aimed at improving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. ASCO's efforts are also directed toward advocat ing for policies that provide access to high-quality care for all patients with cancer and at supporting the increased funding for clinical and translational research.

Based in midtown Detroit, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is committed to a future free of cancer. The Institute is one of 39 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Caring for more than 6,000 new patients annually on a budget of $216 million, conducting more than 700 cancer-specific scientific investigation programs and clinical trials, the Karmanos Cancer Institute is among the nation's best cancer centers. Through the commitment of 1,000 staff, including nearly 300 faculty members, and supported by thousands of volunteer and financial donors, the Institute strives to prevent, detect and eradicate all forms of cancer. John C. Ruckdeschel, M.D. is the Institute's president and CEO.

Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute

CONTACT: Courtney McCrimmon, +1-412-225-6899, , orLinda Remington, +1-313-576-8614, +1-313-820-1414, ,both of the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute mccrimmo@karmanos.org remingtl@karmanos.org

Web site: http://www.karmanos.org/

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