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.