Purpose: To determine the response rate and toxicities of Herceptin and gemcitabine for patients with metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinomas that overexpress HER-2/neu.
Methods and materials: Patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer with 2+/3 + HER-2/neu expression by immunohistochemistry were eligible. Patients received gemcitabine, 1 g/m2/week, for 7 of 8 weeks followed by 3 of every 4 weeks, and Herceptin, 4 mg/kg loading dose, followed by 2 mg/kg/week.
Results: Screening logs demonstrated the rate of HER-2/neu overexpression was 16%. Thirty-four patients were enrolled. Thirty patients (88%) had pancreatic cancers with 2+ overexpression and 4 patients (12%) had 3+ overexpression. Toxicity was similar to gemcitabine alone. Confirmed partial responses were observed in 2 of 32 patients (6%). Thirteen of 32 patients (41%) had either a partial response or a >50% reduction in CA 19-9. The median survival for all 34 patients was 7 months, and the 1-year survival was 19%.
Conclusion: The response rate of Herceptin and gemcitabine is similar to gemcitabine alone. The 7-month median survival in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer suggests there may be a modest benefit for some patients. Infrequent HER-2/neu overexpression limits the role of targeting the HER-2/neu gene and prevents definitive conclusions on the addition of Herceptin to gemcibine for patients with pancreatic cancer.