Published online Apr 28, 2015. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i16.4788
Peer-review started: December 4, 2014
First decision: January 8, 2015
Revised: February 8, 2015
Accepted: March 30, 2015
Article in press: March 31, 2015
Published online: April 28, 2015
Due to extremely poor prognosis, pancreatic cancer (PDAC) represents the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in Western countries. For more than a decade, gemcitabine (Gem) has been the mainstay of first-line PDAC treatment. Many efforts aimed at improving single-agent Gem efficacy by either combining it with a second cytotoxic/molecularly targeted agent or pharmacokinetic modulation provided disappointing results. Recently, the field of systemic therapy of advanced PDAC is finally moving forward. Polychemotherapy has shown promise over single-agent Gem: regimens like PEFG-PEXG-PDXG and GTX provide significant potential advantages in terms of survival and/or disease control, although sometimes at the cost of poor tolerability. The PRODIGE 4/ACCORD 11 was the first phase III trial to provide unequivocal benefit using the polychemotherapy regimen FOLFIRINOX; however the less favorable safety profile and the characteristics of the enrolled population, restrict the use of FOLFIRINOX to young and fit PDAC patients. The nanoparticle albumin-bound paclitaxel (nab-Paclitaxel) formulation was developed to overcome resistance due to the desmoplastic stroma surrounding pancreatic cancer cells. Regardless of whether or not this is its main mechanisms of action, the combination of nab-Paclitaxel plus Gem showed a statistically and clinically significant survival advantage over single agent Gem and significantly improved all the secondary endpoints. Furthermore, recent findings on maintenance therapy are opening up potential new avenues in the treatment of advanced PDAC, particularly in a new era in which highly effective first-line regimens allow patients to experience prolonged disease control. Here, we provide an overview of recent advances in the systemic treatment of advanced PDAC, mostly focusing on recent findings that have set new standards in metastatic disease. Potential avenues for further development in the metastatic setting and current efforts to integrate new effective chemotherapy regimens in earlier stages of disease (neoadjuvant, adjuvant, and multimodal approaches in both resectable and unresectable patients) are also briefly discussed.
Core tip: In this paper, we provide an overview on the latest progress in the systemic treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer, mostly focusing on recent findings that have set new standards in metastatic disease. Potential avenues for further development in the metastatic setting and current efforts to integrate new effective chemotherapy regimens in earlier stages of disease (neoadjuvant, adjuvant, and multimodal approaches in both resectable and unresectable patients) are also briefly discussed.