PURPOSE - Gemcitabine is generally considered to constitute first-line therapy for pancreatic cancer. To determine whether the addition of fluorouracil (5-FU) improves on the results from single-agent gemcitabine, the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) compared gemcitabine plus bolus 5-FU with gemcitabine alone for patients with advanced pancreatic carcinoma.
PATIENTS AND METHODS - This trial involved patients with biopsy-proven, advanced carcinoma of the pancreas not amenable to surgical resection. Patients were randomized to receive either gemcitabine alone (1,000 mg/m(2)/wk) weekly for 3 weeks of every 4 or to receive gemcitabine (1,000 mg/m(2)/wk) followed by 5-FU (600 mg/m(2)/wk) weekly on the same schedule. The primary end point of the trial was survival, with secondary end points of time to progression and response rate.
RESULTS - Of 327 patients enrolled over 18 months, 322 were eligible. Overall, the median survival was 5.4 months for gemcitabine alone and 6.7 months for gemcitabine plus 5-FU (P =.09). Progression-free survival for gemcitabine alone was 2.2 months, compared with 3.4 months for gemcitabine plus 5-FU (P =.022). Objective responses were uncommon and were observed in only 5.6% of patients treated with gemcitabine and 6.9% of patients treated with gemcitabine plus 5-FU. Most toxicities were hematologic or gastrointestinal; no significant differences were noted between the two treatment arms.
CONCLUSION - 5-FU, administered in conjunction with gemcitabine, did not improve the median survival of patients with advanced pancreatic carcinoma compared with single-agent gemcitabine. Further studies with other combinations of gemcitabine and 5-FU are not compelling, and clinical trial resources should address other combinations and novel agents.