Pancreatic cancer has been categorized as one of the deadliest forms of cancer, claiming the lives of 36,800 of 43,000 Americans diagnosed with the disease annually. With such bleak chances for survival, many patients suffering from pancreatic cancer opt to endure the side effects that may be caused by medication, if it meant extending their survival.
According to a feature on the Los Angeles Times, French researchers were able to determine that a cocktail of four chemotherapy drugs may improve the average survival rate of pancreatic cancer patients by 60 percent. The drugs, however, cause various side effects, although these did not impair a patient’s quality of life.
The study was conducted by Dr. Dr. Thierry Conroy of Nancy University and Centre Alexis Vautrin in Nancy, France, and his colleagues. It involved 342 patients who had been diagnosed with early stage pancreatic cancer, and who were under the age of 76.
The study participants received treatment for a period of six months, and were divided into two groups. One group received a cocktail of four chemotherapy drugs, collectively termed as FOLFIRINOX: oxaliplatin, irinotecan, leucovorin and fluorouracil. The other group received gemcitabine (Gemzar), the primary drug used to treat pancreatic cancer.
The results of the study showed that those who received FOLFIRINOX had a median survival time of 11.1 months, compared to 6.8 months among those who received gemcitabine. Those who received combination therapy, however, experienced more side effects, including pain, numbness in the extremities, loss of appetite, diarrhea and weight loss. Due to the severe side effects observed among those who received combination therapy, physicians recommend that it be given to patients aged 75 and below.