University of Rochester to Lead Large Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Trial

New combination of drugs will be tested to improve quality of life

October 31, 2002

A team of researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have launched one of the largest clinical trials of pancreatic cancer in the United States that could help people better manage the disease and improve their quality of life.

Oncologists Kishan Pandya, M.D., Charles Francis, M.D., and Alok Khorana, M.D., and Gary Morrow, Ph.D., will lead the study of 400 patients with newly diagnosed advanced pancreatic cancer. The study will determine whether the combination of chemotherapy with dalteparin, a drug used to prevent blood clots, will improve the quality of life and survival of patients with the disease.

“If this combination proves successful, it will be a great step forward because there have been few advances in treatment for this terrible disease,” says Pandya, director of clinical trials for the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center.

Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed in approximately 29,000 people each year and few live five years past diagnosis. Many times the disease goes undetected because the pancreas is deep inside the body and symptoms don’t appear until it’s spread to other organs. Jaundice, abdominal pain, weight loss, and digestive problems are the most common ailments associated with pancreatic cancer, but many times physicians look for other causes to those symptoms before considering a tumor.

This four-year study is funded by the National Cancer Institute’s Community Clinical Oncology Program and supported by drug-maker Pharmacia Inc. “This is a disease that doesn’t have a cure, so we try to improve the patient’s quality of life as much as possible,” says Francis. Seventeen centers across the United States will participate in the study, enrolling nearly 400 patients over the next three years. Pandya expects 30 patients in the Rochester area to participate. ##

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