Background: The current standard of care for pancreatic cancer is weekly gemcitabine administered for 3 of 4 weeks with a 1-week break between treatment cycles. Maximum tolerated dose (MTD)-driven regimens as such are often associated with toxicities. Recent studies demonstrated that frequent dosing of chemotherapeutic drugs at relatively lower doses in metronomic regimens also confers anti-tumour activity but with fewer side effects.
Methods: Herein, we evaluated the anti-tumour efficacy of metronomic vs MTD gemcitabine, and investigated their effects on the tumour microenvironment in two human pancreatic cancer xenografts established from two different patients.
Results: Metronomic and MTD gemcitabine significantly reduced tumour volume in both xenografts. However, K(trans) values were higher in metronomic gemcitabine-treated tumours than in their MTD-treated counterparts, suggesting better tissue perfusion in the former. These data were further supported by tumour-mapping studies showing prominent decreases in hypoxia after metronomic gemcitabine treatment. Metronomic gemcitabine also significantly increased apoptosis in cancer-associated fibroblasts and induced greater reductions in the tumour levels of multiple pro-angiogenic factors, including EGF, IL-1alpha, IL-8, ICAM-1, and VCAM-1.
Conclusion: Metronomic dosing of gemcitabine is active in pancreatic cancer and is accompanied by pronounced changes in the tumour microenvironment.