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Br J Cancer. 2002 Aug 27;87(5):497-501.

Weekly gemcitabine plus Epirubicin as effective chemotherapy for advanced pancreatic cancer: a multicenter phase II study.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Oncological Day Hospital, University of Florence, Italy.


The current role of chemotherapy in pancreatic carcinoma is limited, and progress in the treatment of this disease represents a significant challenge to medical oncology. The most promising drug under study is gemcitabine, a relatively new antimetabolite that represents an attractive candidate for combination chemotherapy because of its excellent side-effect profile and the absence of overlapping toxicities with other chemotherapeutic agents. Combined administration of gemcitabine and anthracyclines could result in the induction of DNA breaks that are not easily repaired by the cell's machinery, thus enhancing the apoptotic signals triggered by these lesions. Forty-four patients with locally advanced and/or metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma were enrolled in this multicenter study. Patients received Epirubicin 20 mg m(-2) for 3 weeks followed by 1 week of rest (1 cycle) and gemcitabine 1000 mg m(-2) after Epirubicin on the same day. All were assessable for toxicity and response, 11 patients responded to treatment with one complete response and 10 partial responses, for an overall response rate of 25%. Median survival was 10.9 months (range, 2-26 months). Therapy was well tolerated, with a low incidence of haematologic grade >2 toxicity. A total of 12 of 27 (44.4%) eligible patients attained a clinical benefit response. Our findings suggest that the gemcitabine-epirubicin schedule is active and well tolerated in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.

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