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Skin Rash Actually Signifies Better Outcomes for Pancreatic and,Lung Cancer Patients

on’t know why some patients treated with a placebo developed a rash, but it could be due to the strength of their immune system, and that is why they survived longer,” Wacker said.

In the second clinical trial (known as PA.3) that tested Tarceva and the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine against a placebo drug and gemcitabine in 521 patients with advanced pancreatic cancer, 71 percent of patients using Tarceva/gemcitabine developed a rash, compared with 30 percent of patients in the placebo group.

This increased rate of rashes in the placebo group makes some sense, Wacker said, because rashes are known to occur with use of gemcitabine chemotherapy. But, unlike the BR.21 study, these pancreatic cancer patients with rashes in the placebo group did not experience an increase in survival compared to placebo group patients without a rash.

In the Tarceva treatment group, only a more severe rash of grade 2 or higher was associated with increased survival. Patients with a grade 2 rash survived a median of 10.8 months, compared to treated patients with no rash (5.4 months) or a grade 1 rash (5.7 months). “These different results may be associated with the addition of gemcitabine with Tarceva, or the lower dose of Tarceva in this study, but we just don’t know,” he said.

Wacker points out that lack of a rash doesn’t necessarily mean that patients will not benefit from Tarceva. “A small percentage of patients who didn’t develop a rash still had relatively long survival,” he said. “But, still, overall, patients who don’t develop a rash don’t do as well as those who do.”

The study was funded by OSI Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

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