Pancreatic cancer is often deadly. I see this first hand in my practice more often than I’d like. And, unfortunately, a number of my patients have died from it. Detroit’s beloved Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, also succumbed to this illness. The standard treatment for pancreatic cancer is the two drugs nab-paclitaxel and gemcitabine. But, a new study has found that a chemo cocktail of three drugs can improve survivorship.

The Three-Drug Cocktail

In this study, researchers used the standard nab-paclitaxel and gemcitabine but added a third drug to the mix called cisplatin where they saw tumors shrink in patients. They reported that 71% of the patients treated saw their tumors shrink considerably. What’s more, 64% of patients were still alive after a year of treatment. After two years – 40% were still alive.

Now, these numbers may not sound impressive, but considering how low the survival rate is, they are actually encouraging. Only about 26% of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer are still alive one year later. Lab tests have shown that the platinum-based cisplatin can inhibit pancreatic cancer cells from repairing DNA, basically causing them to self-destruct. So, this could be a game-changer when it comes to treatment.

Is This Conclusive?

The short answer is, no. The study only included 25 patients, so more research is needed to see if these survivorship percentages hold true. There are also side-effects to consider. This study found side effects to be manageable and tolerable, but, again, more research is needed to document and track side effects.

So, while this is not a breakthrough treatment, and certainly not a cure, it does still hold promise for the future. Hopefully, in the future, a pancreatic cancer diagnosis will not also come with an expiration date. We’re hoping folks can live longer than what we typically see now.

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