November is pancreatic cancer awareness month, but instead of discussing the poor statistics associated with this deadly disease, let’s take a closer look at the commonly used breast cancer drug Abraxane.
Up until this point, gemcitabine has been the treatment of choice for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, along with surgical intervention. But now, with the addition of Abraxane, this chemotherapy combination appears to be showing promise in the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer.
When compared to other cancers, pancreatic cancer has one of the highest mortality rates. Although not as common as breast cancer, the mortality associated with pancreatic cancer is significantly higher. One of the reasons for this is that pancreatic cancer can often go undetected, sometimes being called the “silent killer” (similar to ovarian cancer). Unfortunately, it's often diagnosed in late stages, and considered incurable.
Most patients with advanced disease may not survive beyond six months once diagnosed, and the overall survival rate for all pancreatic cancer patients is only around 5 percent. It's clear that better treatment options are needed for this particular patient population, and a clinical trial is striving to do just that. This is where Abraxane comes into play.
Most of us are used to this drug being given to those with metastatic breast cancer. Abraxane is similar to the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel, except that it’s bonded to albumin as a delivery vehicle. However, Abraxane has been formulated to be released into cancer cells at higher levels than healthy tissue. Whatever the pharmacokinetics may be, the response rate seems promising.
Advanced pancreatic cancer patients who participated in this trial were either randomized to the gemcitibine/Abraxane arm or gemcitabine alone. For those patients randomized to the gemcitabine/Abraxane arm, the overall survival appeared to be significant, but more information has yet to be released as this study is still ongoing (but no longer recruiting).
Although we still have more to learn about this study, several news reports suggest that more data will be released at the beginning of the year. We may then learn if this chemotherapy combination will be the new treatment of choice for those diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer.
For those of you who treat the pancreatic cancer population, have any of your patients participated in this particular clinical trial? Have you participated in discussions regarding this treatment regimen?