New chemotherapy regimen delays disease relapse and extends life in patients with pancreatic cancer

04 June 2018

Toronto -

A pancreatic cancer clinical trial carried out by the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) and funded in part by the Canadian Cancer Society has found a new drug regimen that significantly delays cancer recurrence and extends survival.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult to treat and deadly cancers. In Canada, only about 8% of people with pancreatic cancer will survive beyond 5 years after diagnosis. Roughly 10-20% of people with pancreatic cancer are eligible to undergo surgery to remove the tumour. Chemotherapy is often given after surgery to reduce the risk of disease relapse and in nearly 75% of these cases, the cancer comes back. For these patients, this trial has uncovered a new treatment option, where few exist, that offers a better chance at survival.

“The distressing part of pancreatic cancer is that only a small proportion of patients are candidates for surgery and even if surgery is successful, most will die of recurrent disease,” says Dr Jim Biagi, an associate professor at Queen’s University and oncologist at the Cancer Centre of South Eastern Ontario who co-led the Canadian portion of the study. “These trial results demonstrate that patients who receive this treatment after surgery are almost twice as likely to survive. This is life changing for these patients and should impact how we treat pancreatic cancer around the world.”

The new therapy, a four-drug combination called mFOLFIRINOX, was compared against gemcitabine, the current standard of care for patients who undergo surgery to remove a pancreatic tumour. Patients receiving mFOLFIRINOX after surgery remained cancer-free 9 months longer than those given gemcitabine. Three years after the surgery, twice as many patients in the mFOLFIRINOX group were disease-free compared to those in the gemcitabine group.

Patients in the mFOLFIRINOX group also lived for 1.5 years longer than those in the gemcitabine group. The 3-year survival rate for patients receiving mFOLFIRINOX was 63% whereas it was 49% for patients given gemcitabine.

“Since 1980, more than 80,000 people have received excellent care at over 800 hospitals and cancer centres across the country in clinical trials that we funded. We’re obviously thrilled when discoveries from these trials improve survival and change the way cancer is treated worldwide,” says Dr Judy Bray, Vice-President of Research at the Canadian Cancer Society. “We are committed to helping Canadians through the entire cancer journey by investing in research on prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and the quality of life of those affected by cancer,” adds Bray.

The Canadian Cancer Society is the largest national charitable funder of research into all types of cancer. A crucial component of this work is clinical trials research. In 2017, CCS invested $4.7 million in CCTG, making it the organization’s single largest research investment. Through its support of CCTG, CCS is a key funder of life-saving cancer trials across the country.

The PRODIGE24/CCTG PA.6 trial took place at 77 sites in France and Canada and recruited close to 500 patients. All patients had pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most common type of pancreatic cancer that accounts for 90% of all cases, and underwent surgery to remove their tumour. Following the surgery, they were randomly assigned to receive either gemcitabine or mFOLFIRINOX.

This trial was sponsored by UNICANCER in Paris, France and in Canada by CCTG in Kingston, Ontario. The results of the trial were presented at the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting on June 4, 2018 in Chicago.

The Canadian Cancer Society provides the core operational funding for CCTG to conduct clinical trials nationwide. The study was also funded by Institut National du Cancer (France), La ligue contre le cancer (France) and 7 Days in May.

To read the announcement from Queen’s University, click here
To read the Unicancer announcement, click here

About the Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Rosie Hales
Communications Specialist, Canadian Cancer Society

Sheila Dong
Senior Manager, Strategy Communications, Canadian Cancer Society