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Saturday, 10 November, 2001, 00:33 GMT
New pancreatic cancer hope
Chemotherapy syringe
Chemotherapy following surgery may improve a patient's chances
Giving chemotherapy to patients suffering from pancreatic cancer following surgery may increase their chances of survival, according to research.

Scientists at the Cancer Research Campaign who have carried out a Europe-wide trial into pancreatic cancer say patients now have "a glimmer of hope".


For too long there has been a perception among clinicians that this is a cancer too serious to do much about

Professor John Neoptolemos
The results of their trial indicate that patients who are treated with 5-Fluorouracil - a chemotherapy treatment already given to bowel cancer patients - following surgery have a 40% higher chance of survival than those only receiving surgery.

Pancreatic cancer is notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat and more than 7,000 patients die from the disease every year.

'Encouraging'

Lead researcher Professor John Neoptolemos, of the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, said: "These results are very encouraging. We now know that by using chemotherapy we may improve a patient's survival without diminishing their quality of life.

"For too long there has been a perception among clinicians that this is a cancer too serious to do much about.

"Research is changing that and at last we can give a glimmer of hope to patients."

Pancreatic cancer symptoms
Weight loss
Loss of appetite
General discomfort or pain in the stomach area
Back pain
Professor Nick Lemoine, pancreatic expert at Imperial Cancer Research Fund, said: "This study is significant as it offers a much better outlook to the 130 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every week.

"These are mainly older people, with eight out of 10 cases in men and women aged between 60 and 80.

"The disease is particularly hard to treat because it is unusually aggressive, symptoms are often vague and appear at a late stage and surgery is very difficult."

Meanwhile, Prof Neoptolemos and his team are embarking on a larger trial of a new drug called Gemcitabine, which it is hoped will be even more effective in treating patients with pancreatic cancer.

The trial will involve nearly 1,000 patients from 15 different countries including Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the UK.

Prof Neoptolemos said: "Patients diagnosed with this disease face an appalling outlook and sadly we are still some way from finding a cure.

"We are hopeful this new drug will offer even better survival to patients but we need a trial on this scale to confirm this."

See also:

03 Feb 99 | Health
Turning the tables on cancer
30 Jun 99 | Health
Smart missiles torpedo cancer
23 Apr 99 | Health
Cancer more likely to kill poor
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