Purpose: To assess the efficacy and toxicity of combination therapy with gemcitabine and docetaxel in patients with unresectable pancreatic carcinoma.
Patients and methods: Thirty-four patients with unresectable stage III, IVA, and IVB pancreatic carcinoma were eligible for this study. The first 18 patients received gemcitabine 800 mg/m2 intravenously (i.v.) on days 1, 8, and 15 and docetaxel 75 mg/m2 i.v. on day 1, repeated every 28 days. Due to a high incidence of myelosuppression in this first group, the treatment schedule was modified in the remaining patients to gemcitabine 1,000 mg/m2 i.v. and docetaxel 40 mg/m2 i.v. on days 1 and 8 of a 21-day schedule. The primary study endpoints were objective response rate and duration of survival.
Results: Ten of 33 evaluable patients achieved a partial response, for an overall response rate of 30.3% (95% CI, 16.21%-48.87%). Partial responses noted in the pancreas and a variety of metastatic sites were maintained for 4 to 12 months (median 6 months). Twelve additional patients (36%) experienced stable disease. The median time to progression was 6 months, and median survival was 10.5 months. The toxicity profile of the modified gemcitabine/docetaxel schedule was more favorable than that associated with the initial regimen, particularly with respect to hematologic toxicity.
Conclusion: The response and survival data reported here for combination therapy with gemcitabine and docetaxel are encouraging given the poor prognosis associated with unresectable pancreatic cancer. These data suggest that gemcitabine plus docetaxel may be more effective than either agent alone in the treatment of pancreatic cancer and warrants further study.