Anticancer Drugs 2008 Jun;19(5):435-46
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Sylvester Cancer Center, Miami, Florida 33136, USA.
Complete surgical resection is the only potentially curative option for pancreatic cancer. However, most patients have advanced/metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis, or will relapse after surgery. Systemic chemotherapy is only palliative. Gemcitabine-based therapy is an acceptable standard for unresectable locally advanced/metastatic pancreatic cancer, but average median survival is only 6 months. The addition of other chemotherapies (including other antimetabolites, platinum, and topoisomerase I inhibitors) or targeted therapies (farnesyl transferase inhibitors, metalloproteinase inhibitors, cetuximab and bevacizumab) to gemcitabine has failed to improve outcome. The combination of gemcitabine and erlotinib, a small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor of the human epidermal growth factor receptor, was recently approved by the US/European authorities for use in advanced disease. In a phase III trial, the combination demonstrated a significant improvement in overall survival compared with gemcitabine monotherapy. Positive efficacy results have also been observed in a phase III trial, favoring the addition of capecitabine to gemcitabine compared with gemcitabine alone. This review focuses on the recent developments in systemic treatment, and discusses how novel agents might be incorporated into future treatment strategies for pancreatic cancer.