Journal of the Pancreas Open Access

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Advancements in the Management of Pancreatic Cancer Highlights from the "2009 ASCO Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium". San Francisco, CA, USA. January 15-17, 2009

Muhammad Wasif Saif, Jia Li

Management of pancreatic cancer remains the most challenging work in oncology. Though pancreatic cancer represents only 2-3% of all cancers, it is the most fatal one accounting for the 6% of all cancer death. It remains the 4th cause of death by cancer since 1970s in the U.S.. Gemcitabine remains the only standard of care for this disease. More and more combination therapies containing gemcitabine have been tested or undergoing investigation. The interest in treating pancreatic cancer is apparently global. Over 75 abstracts were presented in the 2009 ASCO Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium at San Francisco in the field of pancreatic cancer. In this highlights article, authors summarize the critical studies in the management of pancreatic cancer. A large retrospective study evaluated the role of post-operative adjuvant radiation (Abstract #181) and correlated the receipt of radiation with survival benefit. Borderline resectable pancreatic cancer remains an area that requires multi-disciplinary approach. Neo-adjuvant therapy very likely plays a role to downstage to a resectable state in these subgroup patients (Abstracts #197 and #248). In advanced or metastatic setting, studies aiming at the gemcitabine-based triplet or doublet combinations are still the mainstream. FFCD 0301 trial (Abstract #180), the only large phase III trial presented in the first-line setting, failed to demonstrate any survival advantage of either 5-FU and leucovorin plus cisplatin followed by gemcitabine or vice versa. Biologic agents containing regimens were also presented. Of note, gemcitabine and oxaliplatin plus bevacizumab achieved a high response rate of 39% (Abstract #182) while gemcitabine with dual monoclonal antibody regimen was disappointing (Abstract #183). The clear benefit of all other combinations over gemcitabine alone remains questionable given most studies are small. Newer agents, especially S-1 (Abstracts #213 and #251), are very promising, and further studies are warranted. In a nut shell, pancreatic cancer continues to pose an enormous challenge to clinicians and cancer scientists. With a more affluent world the global incidence of pancreatic cancer is rising. This meeting again emphasizes us that it is urgent to make big inroads into whatstill remains the most lethal of the common.