Abraxane, approved by FDA to treat Pancreatic Cancer


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Pancreatic cancer is ranked the fourth most fatal cancer in the U.S. Out of 45,000 patients diagnosed in 2013, 38,000 will die from it according to the National Cancer Institute.

Surgery is the best option to permanently remove or cure pancreatic cancer, but typically when a person is diagnosed, it is too late for surgery. According to the American Cancer Society, those diagnosed between 1992 and 1998, about 1 of every 6 patients was able to be treated with surgery. The symptoms are often too subtle to notice, until it has spread significantly.

The numbers below came from the American Cancer Society and are based on people diagnosed with exocrine cancer of the pancreas between 1992 and 1998.

Statistics from American Cancer Society.

To publish 5-year survival rates, doctors look at statistics from people who were treated at least 5 years ago. Changes in treatments and treatment methods may result in a better outlook for people currently diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. Though clearly, we need a better option of treatment.

Image from Celgene

A fairly new drug, Abraxane, created by Celgene, is now approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be part of a chemotherapy regimen to fight late-stage pancreatic cancer. Abraxane was initially approved in 2005 for breast cancer and is also now approved for non-small cell lung cancer.

“Patients with pancreatic cancer are often diagnosed after the cancer has advanced and cannot be surgically removed,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “In these situations, and in situations when the cancer has progressed following surgery, options like Abraxane can help prolong a patient’s life.”

Abraxane works by delaying tumor growth. Abraxane is intended to be used with gemcitabine, another chemotherapy drug, in patients with pancreatic cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

After being used in an ongoing clinical trial of 861 participants, doctors randomized patients to either receive or not to receive Abraxane in their chemo regimen. Participants who received Abraxane lived an average of 1.8 months longer, than those who were not receiving Abraxane. Those participants, who received Abraxane plus gemcitabine, experienced a delay in tumor growth. Abraxane caused an increase in one-year survival, 35 percent vs 22 percent (non-receivers) and also doubled the percentage of patients who survived for two years from the start of treatment, with 9 percent still alive compared with 4 percent for gemcitabine alone.

Though, survival rates are not 100% at this time, gaining back time that would have been lost otherwise, even by 2 months is better than none. Small victories in an uphill battle for a cure is a good way to start.

Main Article Image from Wikimedia Commons