Conventional chemotherapy of advanced pancreatic cancer

Francesco Giuliani, Massimo Di Maio, Giuseppe Colucci, Francesco Perrone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The vast majority of patients with pancreatic cancer present with locally advanced unresectable or metastatic disease, and in this setting only a palliative treatment can be offered. Single-agent gemcitabine has been considered the standard chemotherapy for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer since the results of a pivotal phase III trial showing superior clinical benefit compared to bolus 5-fluorouracil were published in 1997. In recent years, many randomized trials have attempted to improve results obtained with gemcitabine exploring a different schedule (fixed dose rate) of its administration, or testing the addition of one or more drugs to gemcitabine. Unfortunately, none of these trials produced a statistically significant and clinically relevant improvement in overall survival compared to the standard. A randomized phase III trial has recently shown a survival advantage using a combination of more drugs (FOLFIRINOX: irinotecan, oxaliplatin, folinic acid and 5-fluorouracil) compared to single-agent gemcitabine, suggesting that regimens without gemcitabine can be successfully used in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. FOLFIRINOX was associated with worse toxicity than gemcitabine, and the available data suggest that this regimen may be considered for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who are fit enough to withstand potential side effects. The best option for these patients remains the enrolment in prospective clinical trials. Improvements in the treatment of the advanced disease will possibly derive from new combinations or from new drugs, but certainly from a better knowledge of the multiple molecular pathways implicated in pancreatic carcinogenesis and in invasion and metastasis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795-801
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Drug Targets
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • Advanced pancreatic cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cisplatin
  • Gemcitabine
  • Oxaliplatin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine

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