Paclitaxel as second-line chemotherapy in patients with gemcitabine-refractory pancreatic cancer: a retrospective study

Int J Clin Oncol. 2011 Oct;16(5):539-45. doi: 10.1007/s10147-011-0220-8. Epub 2011 Apr 1.


Background: We evaluated the efficacy and feasibility of paclitaxel in patients with gemcitabine-refractory pancreatic cancer. We also evaluated the correlation between tumor marker decline and response rate.

Methods: Thirty patients histologically diagnosed with pancreatic cancer who had undergone paclitaxel treatment as salvage chemotherapy were retrospectively analyzed. Paclitaxel treatment was performed with 80 mg/(m(2) week) for 3 weeks followed by 1 week rest, and this was continued until failure. Tumor marker response was evaluated by measuring levels of carbohydrate antigen 19-9, carcinoembryonic antigen, and DUPAN-2 monthly.

Results: In total, 272 weekly paclitaxel treatments were performed. The median number of treatments per patient was 8 (range 1-22). The median overall survival from the start of paclitaxel treatment was 6.7 months (range 1.2-18.8). The response rate was 10% (3/30 patients) and the disease control rate was 46.7% (14/30 patients). Although grade 3 and 4 hematological and non-hematological toxicities were seen in 7 and 6 patients, respectively, adverse events were managed by conservative treatment. We found a significant correlation between the disease control rate and tumor marker decline within 2 months of paclitaxel treatment (P = 0.01). Patients with tumor marker decline tended to survive longer.

Conclusion: Weekly administration of paclitaxel in patients with gemcitabine-refractory pancreatic cancer seems to be well tolerated and can be effective. Paclitaxel treatment should be considered as salvage chemotherapy after gemcitabine failure in patients with good performance status.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use*
  • Biomarkers, Pharmacological / metabolism
  • CA-19-9 Antigen / metabolism
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / metabolism
  • Deoxycytidine / adverse effects
  • Deoxycytidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Deoxycytidine / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Paclitaxel / administration & dosage
  • Paclitaxel / adverse effects
  • Paclitaxel / therapeutic use*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Salvage Therapy*


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Biomarkers, Pharmacological
  • CA-19-9 Antigen
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen
  • DU-PAN-2 antigen, human
  • Deoxycytidine
  • gemcitabine
  • Paclitaxel