Background: A standard second-line chemotherapy regimen has yet to be defined for patients with gemcitabine (Gem)-refractory advanced pancreatic cancer (PC).
Patients and methods: In this multicenter phase II trial, patients with unresectable or metastatic PC who had progressed on single-agent Gem or a Gem-containing regimen received pemetrexed 500 mg/m(2) as a 10-min infusion every 3 weeks until disease progression or occurrence of unacceptable toxicity. The primary end point was the 3-month survival rate.
Results: A total of 192 treatment cycles were given to 52 patients. The overall response rate was 3.8% (two partial responses); 10 patients (19.2%) experienced stable disease, nine of them for >12 weeks. At least one CA 19-9 reduction > or =50% occurred in 12 patients (23.1%). The 3-month survival rate was 75% (95% confidence interval 63.2% to 86.8%), the median time to tumor progression was 7 weeks (range 1-62 weeks) and the median overall survival time was 20 weeks (range 1-84 weeks). Grade 3/4 hematological toxic effects included (percent of patients): neutropenia (17.3%), thrombocytopenia (5.8%) and anemia (3.8%). The most frequent non-hematological toxic effects were diarrhea, nausea and stomatitis/pharyngitis (23.1% each).
Conclusion: Pemetrexed is a safe treatment option with moderate activity in patients with advanced PC after failure of Gem.