Is the therapeutic index better with gemcitabine-based chemoradiation than with 5-fluorouracil-based chemoradiation in locally advanced pancreatic cancer?

Journal Article

PURPOSE: To retrospectively compare the toxicity and efficacy of concurrent gemcitabine-based chemoradiation with that of concurrent 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)-based chemoradiation in patients with unresectable pancreatic cancer. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Between September 1996 and May 2000, 114 patients with localized unresectable adenocarcinoma of the pancreas were treated with concurrent chemoradiation. Locally advanced unresectable disease was defined as low-density tumor in contact with the superior mesenteric artery (SMA) or celiac artery, or occlusion of the superior mesenteric-portal venous confluence. Fifty-three patients were selected to receive gemcitabine in 7 weekly cycles (250-500 mg/m(2)) with concurrent radiotherapy (median dose 30 Gy, range 30-33 Gy in 10-11 fractions). The remaining 61 patients received continuous-infusion 5-FU (200-300 mg/m(2)) with concurrent radiotherapy (30 Gy in 10 fractions). Radiotherapy was delivered to the primary tumor and regional lymphatics. Patients receiving gemcitabine and those receiving 5-FU had a similar mean Karnofsky performance status (KPS, 89% vs. 86%), distribution of tumor grade (43% vs. 33% poorly differentiated), and percent weight loss (all p = NS). However, patients treated with gemcitabine had a significantly larger median maximum cross-sectional tumor area (TA, 8.8 cm(2) vs. 5.7 cm(2), p = 0.046) and were significantly younger (median age 60 vs. 68 years, p <0.001). Severe acute toxicity (ST) was defined as toxicity requiring a hospital stay of more than 5 days, mucosal ulceration with bleeding, more than 3 dose deletions of gemcitabine or discontinuation of 5-FU, or toxicity resulting in surgical intervention or death. Kaplan-Meier analysis was used to calculate the actuarial rate of local progression on imaging (LP), the rate of distant metastasis (DM), and the overall survival (OS) rate. The imaging was reviewed in resected patients. RESULTS: Patients receiving gemcitabine developed significantly more ST during treatment (23% vs. 2%, p < 0.0001) than did those receiving 5-FU. Patients treated with gemcitabine had a similar 10-month LP rate (62% vs. 61%), 10-month DM rate (55% vs. 47%), 1-year OS rate (42% vs. 28%), and median OS duration (11 months vs. 9 months) to patients treated with 5 FU (all p = NS). Five patients who received gemcitabine and 1 patient who received 5-FU underwent margin-negative pancreaticoduodenectomy after chemoradiation. Three patients had a short segment (10 cm(2) (p = 0.03) and poor differentiation (p = 0.07) were associated with a worse survival duration; however, other factors, such as KPS and weight loss >10% and age did not influence OS. CONCLUSION: Despite the selection of healthier patients to receive gemcitabine, there was a significantly higher severe toxicity rate than with 5-FU. The median and 1-year survivals were not significantly different with the use of concurrent gemcitabine; however, the tumors treated were significantly larger. Additionally, a small number of patients with minimal arterial involvement whose disease met our radiographic definition of unresectable disease had margin-negative resections after treatment with gemcitabine-based chemoradiation. These possible benefits and the high rate of severe toxicity define a very narrow therapeutic index for concurrent gemcitabine-based chemoradiation given by this schedule of administration.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Crane, CH; Abbruzzese, JL; Evans, DB; Wolff, RA; Ballo, MT; Delclos, M; Milas, L; Mason, K; Charnsangavej, C; Pisters, PWT; Lee, JE; Lenzi, R; Vauthey, JN; Wong, ABS; Phan, T; Nguyen, Q; Janjan, NA

Published Date

  • April 2002

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 52 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 1293 - 1302

PubMed ID

  • 11955742

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1879-355X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0360-3016

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/s0360-3016(01)02740-7

Language

  • eng