New cocktail of drugs improve pancreatic cancer patients rate of survival
Patients complain about side effects, none severe enough to impact quality of life
Four chemotherapy drugs, given in a drug cocktail has been proven to improve the average survival rate of most pancreatic cancer patients by more than 60 percent. French researchers say the drugs had a variety of side effects, but did not impair the quality of life for the survivors. As survival is so poor with the disease, many patients were happy to accept the side effects of the drug to gain a few months of life.
Movie star Patrick Swayze died from pancreatic cancer, one of the least common -- but most fatal forms of cancer.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pancreatic cancer strikes 43,000 Americans annually and kills 36,800 of them. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer, the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. While pancreatic cancer accounts for only about 2.5% of all cancer cases, fewer than 6 percent of victims survive for five years.
Dr. Thierry Conroy of Nancy University and Centre Alexis Vautrin and his colleagues studied 342 patients with early stages of pancreatic cancer. Half received gemcitabine, or Gemzar, the primary drug used for pancreatic cancer therapy, and half received a cocktail of four other chemotherapy drugs: oxaliplatin, irinotecan, leucovorin and fluorouracil, known collectively as FOLFIRINOX. All of the patients, who were under the age of 76, were treated for six months.
The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the median survival time for the patients receiving gemcitabine was 6.8 months, compared with a median of 11.1 months among those receiving FOLFIRINOX.
Those taking the combination therapy reported many more side effects, such as pain, numbness in the extremities, loss of appetite, diarrhea and weight loss. The side effects apparently did not severely impair their quality of life. After six months of treatment, 31 percent of those in the FOLFIRINOX group reported a significant decline in their quality of life, compared to 66 percent in the gemcitabine group. Because of the severity of the side effects, physicians recommended that the drug cocktail be reserved for those ages 75 and younger.
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