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Cancer. 2008 Apr 15;112(8):1772-9. doi: 10.1002/cncr.23313.

A phase 2 study of gemcitabine and epirubicin for the treatment of pleural mesothelioma: a North Central Cancer Treatment Study, N0021.

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  • 1Department of Oncology, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.



The North Central Cancer Treatment Group (NCCTG) conducted a phase 2 study to evaluate the antitumor activity of the combination of gemcitabine and epirubicin in patients with pleural mesothelioma who received no more than 1 prior chemotherapy regimen.


A total of 23 patients were accrued between August 2001 and April 2002 and received gemcitabine at a dose of 1000 mg/m(2) intravenously over 30 minutes weekly every 2 weeks and epirubicin at a dose of 90 mg/m(2) intravenously on Day 1 on an every-21-days cycle (high-dose patient group). Between August 2002 and April 2004, an additional 45 patients were treated at a reduced dose of gemcitabine of 750 mg/m(2) and epirubicin at a dose of 70 mg/m(2) with the same schedule (low-dose patient group).


In the high-dose patient group, the confirmed response rate was 13% (95% confidence interval [95% CI], 3-34%). The median survival was 9.3 months (95% CI, 7.4-10.7 months) and the median time to disease progression was 6.3 months (95% CI, 3.0-7.6 months). In the low-dose patient group, the confirmed response rate was 7% (95% CI, 0-28%). The median survival was 5.7 months (95% CI, 4.7-8.7 months) and the median time to disease progression was 4.2 months (95% CI, 2.7-5.6 months). Toxicity was moderate to severe. In the high-dose and low-dose groups, 87% and 60% of patients, respectively, experienced at least 1 adverse event of grade 4 or higher (according to National Cancer Institute Common Toxicity Criteria [version 2.0]). The quality of life remained similar from baseline to the end of the 2 cycles of treatment in the high-dose group but worsened in the low-dose group.


In the current study, the combination regimen of gemcitabine and epirubicin was found to demonstrate minimal antitumor activity against pleural mesothelioma.

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