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Updated Jan 25, 2013 - 6:48 pm

Drug tested in Scottsdale extends life of pancreatic cancer patients

A new drug combination tested at Scottsdale Healthcare's Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center extends survival of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer patients.

Findings show a one-year survival increase of 59 percent. It also doubles the two-year survival rates over the current standard of care.

Lynne Jacoby, 48, of Phoenix is one of the patients who has been in treatment under the drug combination. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic adenocarcinoma -- a tumor the size of a golf ball -- in April 2012.

"My doctors told me that my life was measured in weeks," she said. "And that on average people survived four months, once they had reached the point that I had reached in terms of the illness. Best case scenario would be to survive up to a year."

Jacoby began the treatment of Abraxane plus Gemcitabine in May 2012. She's had several CT scans and says her last one in September shows no signs of tumor activity whatsoever.

"I feel amazing," she said, adding that she expects to continue the treatment through May and then hopes to stay on a maintenance regimen.

Now, Jacoby wants to advocate for people who get a late-stage pancreatic diagnosis to know there is a lot of help out there.

"Get several opinions. If you need to get a second opinion, a third opininon," she said.

The study showed significant improvement among some of the sickest patients. It also proved to have no increase in life-threatening toxicity. Other drug combinations that have demonstrated benefit have been limited by increased toxicities.

Scottsdale Healthcare's Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, along with Dr. Ramesh Ramanathan, led the worldwide study. The treatment includes a combination of the common cancer fighting drug Gemcitabine and the breast cancer drug Abraxane. If approved, this would be the second FDA approval of new treatment for cancer led by clinical trials at Scottsdale Healthcare (Erivedge was approved about a year ago).

Overall, the study involved 861 patients at 151 sites in 11 countries. It is possibly the largest trial ever done for late-stage pancreas cancer treatment.

The incidence of pancreatic cancer is increasing worldwide with an estimated 279,000 cases per year, including nearly 44,000 in the U.S. in 2012, and resulting in more than 37,000 American deaths last year.

Individuals seeking information about eligibility to participate in clinical trials at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare may contact the cancer care coordinator at (480) 323-1339, toll free at (877)273-3713 or via email at clinicaltrials@shc.org.

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