The research team led by Prof. Matthias Lohr have found that a new drug paclitaxel in combination with weekly infusions of gemcitabine could destroy new blood vessels that grow around tumours.
For the study, the investigators recruited 200 patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma and gave three different doses of cationic lipid complexed paclitaxel (EndoTAG-1) twice weekly, in combination with weekly infusions of gemcitabine.
"EndoTAG consists of charged particles that bind preferentially to the fast-growing endothelial cells in new blood vessels being formed by tumours," said Lohr.
"The drug, paclitaxel, is then released and thus directly reaches an important target in tumours, i.e. the vessels. Paclitaxel itself is not very efficient in pancreratic cancer," Lohr added.
Over a year, the researchers found that the treatment led to a substantially extended median survival time compared to standard therapy.
Patients given gemcitabine alone survived on average 7.2 months, compared to up to 13.6 months for patients who received repeated doses of the combination (EndoTAG plus gemcitabine).
"These results are the best I have ever seen in palliative treatment in pancreatic cancer," Lohr said.
The study was presented at the 33rd Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) in Stockholm.