A phase II study of gemcitabine and tamoxifen in advanced pancreatic cancer

Anticancer Res. 2002 Jul-Aug;22(4):2361-4.


Background: Advanced pancreatic cancer (APC) constitutes a poor-prognosis disease with few and disappointing therapeutic options. In recent years chemotherapy has demonstrated a positive effect on disease-related symptoms with the introduction of a novel pyrimidine analogue, gemcitabine. Moreover there is experimental and clinical evidence that endocrine therapy may play a small but unexplored role in the management of APC. Therefore we performed a phase II study to assess whether the combination of gemcitabine and tamoxifen could be an active and safe schedule for the treatment of APC in terms of response rate and clinical benefits.

Materials and methods: Twenty-seven evaluable consecutive patients with locally advanced, unresectable or metastatic adenocarcinoma of the pancreas were treated with gemcitabine (1000 mg/mq given as a short infusion once weekly for 3 consecutive weeks out of every 4 weeks) and tamoxifen (20 mg daily starting the second day after gemcitabine). The treatment was continued until progression or unacceptable toxicity. Evaluation of efficacy included response rate, time to progression, survival and clinical benefit, an integrated measurement of pain parameters, weight and performance status.

Results: A partial response was achieved in 11% of patients while 48% experienced stable disease, lasting at least 8 weeks; disease progression was documented in 41% of patients. The median time of progression was 4.5 months; the median survival-time was 8 months and one-year survival was 31%. Clinical benefit was documented in 59% of patients with a median duration of 13 weeks. No gastrointestinal or haematological grade 4 toxicity was observed. In general the treatment showed a satisfactory safety profile and tamoxifen-related toxicity was not documented.

Conclusion: The combination of gemcitabine and tamoxifen appears to be an innovative therapeutic approach in the management of APC with interesting clinical activity and a good profile of toxicity. This novel schedule of treatment deserves further investigation in large randomized trials to assess if the addition of tamoxifen could improve the therapeutic results of gemcitabine in APC, mostly in term of quality of lfe.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase II

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anemia / chemically induced
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / administration & dosage
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Deoxycytidine / administration & dosage
  • Deoxycytidine / adverse effects*
  • Deoxycytidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Female
  • Gemcitabine
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nausea / chemically induced
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neutropenia / chemically induced
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tamoxifen / administration & dosage
  • Tamoxifen / adverse effects*
  • Thrombocytopenia / chemically induced
  • Vomiting / chemically induced


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Tamoxifen
  • Deoxycytidine
  • Gemcitabine