New Pancreatic Cancer Treatments Giving Patients More Time

Posted by holliewilliams on May 20th, 2019

Cancer treatments keep getting more refined and effective. Researchers have found that such improvements in cancer monitoring and chemotherapy can lengthen the lives of almost a third of patients with pancreatic cancer that had previously been told their tumors were inoperable.

For patients with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, this is excellent news because the prognosis is usually bleak. When pancreatic cancer spreads outside the pancreas it may impact important blood vessels and this renders it inoperable. Patients may only live for a year to 18 months in such scenarios.

New chemotherapy treatments are changing these statistics when used together with surgery and radiation therapy. Specifically, patients who have certain chemotherapy-related factors lived longer in the study. The factors are:

•    The amount of chemotherapy. Patients that received more chemotherapy lived longer.

•    Blood levels of a particular chemical known as CA19-9. Pancreatic cancer cells give off this chemical and having it in low levels means that the chemotherapy has flushed out a lot of the hidden cancer cells.

•    A tumor that was found to be dead or mostly dead after removal using surgery. This indicates that chemotherapy successfully killed the cancer.

•    The study was on 194 patients over seven years and 29 percent of them had all three factors. The team has not calculated this group’s average survival because over half of them are still alive. Another 29 percent of patients had two factors and had a median survival of a little under five years.

The researchers used PET scans and the CA19-9 test to monitor the impact of the chemotherapy on the cancer cells. Since PET scans involve tracking the activity of radioactive tracers drawn to living cells in the body, its results are more accurate at predicting cancer death or reduction. The doctor can then surgically remove the tumor even if a CT scan shows no difference and the tumor would most likely be dead or close.  

About Author

The Sandler-Kenner Foundation was started by Gregory A. Echt, M.D. and his wife, Susan T. Echt, after they lost two of their dear friends, Michael and Peter, to premature deaths from pancreatic cancer.

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