Treatment of Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer

Authors: Andrew H. Ko MD1 and Margaret A. Tempero MD1
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  • 1 Division of Medical Oncology, University of California at San Francisco Comprehensive Cancer Center, San Francisco, California

Pancreatic adenocarcinoma represents the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the United States. The vast majority of patients are diagnosed at advanced stages of the disease when surgery is no longer an option. For these patients, systemic therapy remains the mainstay of care. Although single-agent gemcitabine has remained the standard of care since its approval in 1997, improvements in patient outcomes may potentially be realized by (1) applying pharmacokinetic principles to optimize drug delivery, such as the administration of gemcitabine at a “fixed-dose rate” infusion; (2) combining gemcitabine with other cytotoxic agents for which evidence of synergy exists, such as platinum compounds; and (3) integrating novel targeted agents such as bevacizumab, erlotinib, and cetuximab into treatment paradigms, based on an increasing understanding of the molecular pathways that govern pancreatic tumor growth and maintenance. This article provides the evidence to support each of these approaches and highlights future directions in the management of metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Correspondence: Andrew H. Ko, MD, UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center, 1600 Divisadero Street, 4th floor, Box 1705, San Francisco, CA 94115. E-mail: andrewko@medicine.ucsf.edu
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