Optimal dose of gemcitabine for the treatment of biliary tract or pancreatic cancer in patients with liver dysfunction

Cancer Sci. 2016 Feb;107(2):168-72. doi: 10.1111/cas.12851. Epub 2016 Feb 2.


A clear consensus does not exist about whether the initial dose of gemcitabine, an essential anticancer antimetabolite, should be reduced in patients with liver dysfunction. Adult patients with biliary tract or pancreatic cancer were divided into three groups according to whether they had mild, moderate, or severe liver dysfunction, evaluated on the basis of serum bilirubin and liver transaminase levels at baseline. As anticancer treatment, gemcitabine at a dose of 800 or 1000 mg/m(2) was given as an i.v. infusion once weekly for 3 weeks of a 4-week cycle. The patients were prospectively evaluated for adverse events during the first cycle, and the pharmacokinetics of gemcitabine and its inactive metabolite, difluorodeoxyuridine, were studied to determine the optimal initial dose of gemcitabine as monotherapy according to the severity of liver dysfunction. A total of 15 patients were studied. Liver dysfunction was mild in one patient, moderate in six, and severe in eight. All 15 patients had been undergoing biliary drainage for obstructive jaundice when they received gemcitabine. Grade 3 cholangitis developed in one patient with moderate liver dysfunction who received gemcitabine at the dose level of 1000 mg/m(2). No other patients had severe treatment-related adverse events resulting in the omission or discontinuation of gemcitabine treatment. The plasma concentrations of gemcitabine and difluorodeoxyuridine were similar among the groups. An initial dose reduction of gemcitabine as monotherapy for the treatment of biliary tract or pancreatic cancers is not necessary for patients with hyperbilirubinemia, provided that obstructive jaundice is well managed. (Clinical trial registration no. UMIN000005363.)

Keywords: Drug dosage; gemcitabine; hyperbilirubinemia; liver dysfunction; obstructive jaundice.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / administration & dosage*
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / adverse effects
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacokinetics
  • Biliary Tract Neoplasms / complications
  • Biliary Tract Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Deoxycytidine / administration & dosage
  • Deoxycytidine / adverse effects
  • Deoxycytidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Deoxycytidine / pharmacokinetics
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver Diseases / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / complications
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Deoxycytidine
  • gemcitabine

Associated data

  • JPRN/UMIN000005363