More Effective Focused Radiation Therapy and Chemotherapy for Locally Advanced Pancreatic Cancer

Credit: Rafael Mondini; Flickr
Credit: Rafael Mondini; Flickr
Can a drug to enhance the effects of radiation treatments make radiation and chemotherapy more effective for patients with pancreatic cancer that has spread to nearby lymph nodes and blood vessels?

In a clinical trial, researchers are testing the drug Zometa, which has been found to increase the sensitivity of some cancer cells to radiation. The trial adds this drug to the combination of stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) and chemotherapy.

SBRT Plus Chemotherapy

SBRT uses multiple beams of high-dose radiation focused on a specified location in the body. The higher doses of radiation are given over fewer days than standard radiation treatment. The precise location for the radiation beams is determined using 4-D imaging to map the area that will receive treatment. Metal markers are then implanted to outline the boundaries of that area. The technique enables the radiation oncologist to kill cancer cells and limit the exposure of healthy tissue to radiation.

This trial combines SBRT with intravenous fluorouracil (5-FU) or capecitabine, which metabolizes into 5-FU and is given in pill form. 5-FU and capecitabine inhibit a specific protein critical for cell replication. Because these drugs target all cells, not just cancer cells, they cause uncomfortable side effects.

Does Zometa Make SBRT More Effective?

Participants are randomly assigned to one of two treatment protocols. One group will receive SBRT plus 5-FU or capecitebine; the other group gets the same combination plus Zometa. Researchers will monitor whether the cancer stops spreading in response to the treatment. The safety of Zometa will also be evaluated.

We encourage you to consult your physicians for clinical trials that may be right for you. The website Clinicaltrials.gov provides more details about this trial as well as many others. You can visit the Clinical Trials Finder for a listing of all active pancreatic cancer clinical trials.

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