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Researchers Say New 4-Drug Chemo 'Cocktail' Could Be A Pancreatic Cancer Breakthrough Treatment

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A new four-drug combo called Folfirinox could add two additional years of survival to pancreatic cancer patients. The treatment will have to undergo more testing before becoming widely available.  ( Wikimedia Commons )

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer for both men and women. An experimental new drug might be a potential treatment for patients.

What Did Researchers Reveal About A New Pancreatic Cancer Treatment?

On June 5 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference, researchers presented the findings of a promising new treatment for pancreatic cancer patients. It will be primarily given to patients with cancer that hasn't spread yet.

Folfirinox is a four-drug combo "cocktail" that could extend surgical patients lives' by two additional years. It marks an improvement from the current single standard drug.

"You take overall survival from just under three years to almost five years," said Dr. Daniel Labow. "That, for pancreas cancer, is a relative home run because survival in general is so poor."

Roughly half of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed after the disease spreads, which is what makes this new treatment so important.

Researchers found that three years after treatment, two-thirds of patients on Folfirinox were still alive, and 40 percent were cured. This was compared to the other drug, Gemzar. Half of the patients on Gemzar were alive, and 20 percent were cured.

ASCO's chief medical officer Dr. Richard Schilsky praised the results and said it's the biggest advance for pancreatic cancer in 25 years.

How Did Researchers Study The Drug?

Researchers examined 500 patients throughout France and Canada from a four-year period between 2012 and 2016. Some of the patients received Folfirinox through an IV every two weeks for up to six months. During that same time, another group of patients received Gemzar three times a month.

All the participants were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and early ductal tumors.

Future Implications Of The New Pancreatic Cancer Drug

Although the results of the drug seemed promising, there were also numerous side effects. Patients who received Folfirnox experienced fatigue and diarrhea. The Gemzar group also recorded one death.

Patients should know that this is still in the testing phase since it hasn't been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal yet. There are some patients who are still taking the new drug, but they are primarily in an advanced stage where the cancer is spreading.

In addition to this promising drug, there is also another study from the Netherlands that could also provide hope to pancreatic cancer patients. The other study combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy to improve the survival rate for patients before pancreatic cancer surgery.

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