From: Reuters
Published May 31, 2008 07:29 PM

Lilly drug doubles pancreatic cancer survival: study

By Susan Kelly

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Eli Lilly and Co's chemotherapy drug Gemzar more than doubled the overall survival for early stage pancreatic cancer patients five years after surgery to remove their tumors, according to results from a long-term study released on Saturday.

Gemzar, or gemcitabine, is the standard treatment for patients whose pancreatic cancer is too advanced for surgery. Most pancreatic cancer is diagnosed at a late stage.

Researchers at the Charite University Medical School in Berlin studied the drug in patients with early stage pancreatic cancer who had received surgery, concluding it should be the standard of care for those patients as well. Just 15 percent to 20 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed with the disease early enough to be eligible for surgery.

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The study was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

Earlier data from the study, released in 2005, found patients who received Gemzar after surgery were free of the disease longer than those who received no specific anti-cancer treatment.

"Based on the earlier results of this study, this regimen is already more widely used in both Europe and the United States. These findings can reassure physicians that the drug is also extending lives," Dr. Hanno Riess, the trial's lead investigator, said in a statement.

In the study of 368 patients, the overall survival rate was 36.5 percent at three years and 21 percent at five years for the group who received Gemzar, compared with 19.5 percent at three years and 9 percent at five years for the observation group.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

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