BACKGROUND - Pancreatic cancer remains highly lethal. Previous attempts with neoadjuvant therapy in this disease have been inconclusive, but a potential for benefit exists. We conducted a phase II trial of dose-intense docetaxel and gemcitabine followed by twice-weekly gemcitabine and external beam radiotherapy in patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma.
METHODS - Patients with stage I to III disease were eligible. Docetaxel 65 mg/m(2) intravenously over 1 hour and gemcitabine 4000 mg/m(2) given intravenously over 30 minutes were given on days 1, 15, and 29. On day 43, radiotherapy was begun at 50.4 Gy with gemcitabine 50 mg/m(2) intravenously over 30 minutes twice weekly for 12 doses. After treatment, patients were considered for resection.
RESULTS - Twenty-four assessable patients were recruited onto the trial. All but one patient completed a full 12 weeks of therapy. Grade 3 and 4 hematological and nonhematological toxicities were common but manageable, and neutropenic fever did not occur. No patient had local tumor progression. Twelve patients (50%) responded by Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors Group (RECIST) criteria, including one radiographic complete response. Seventeen patients underwent resection after therapy. Margin-negative resections were performed in 13 patients, including 9 patients whose disease was borderline or unresectable before treatment. A treatment effect was seen in all resection specimens. There have been no local recurrences of tumor, and several patients remain alive without evidence of disease.
CONCLUSIONS - Docetaxel/gemcitabine followed by gemcitabine/radiotherapy is active in the treatment of pancreatic adenocarcinoma, with manageable toxicity. Tumor downstaging occurs in some patients to allow complete resection. Further investigation of this regimen is warranted.