A Phase II clinical trial is under way at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in conjunction with the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine to determine if bevacizumab (also referred to as Avastin., an anti-angiogenesis drug that is designed to inhibit the growth of blood vessels in tumors) in combination with abdominal radiation therapy and chemotherapy can reduce localized pancreatic tumors that have not metastasized or spread to other systems or organs in the body.
Northwestern Memorial is the sole clinical site where the research trial is being conducted.
Mark Talamonti, MD, chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and co-investigator on the study recently reported on a complementary trial, which looked at the effects of combining only chemotherapy and radiation on localized tumors. The results appeared in the February 2006 issue of the Annals of Surgical Oncology.
“Our findings from the previous study suggest that the combination of chemotherapy and radiation is a safe and effective treatment method to reduce the local extent of pancreatic tumors,” said Dr. Talamonti.
“The current study, which will be conducted over two years, will help us evaluate whether adding Avastin may also provide an effective combination to reduce the tumor and increase survival rates,” added William Small, Jr., MD, radiation oncologist, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, associate professor, Radiation Oncology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and principal investigator for the trial.
Avastin is designed to inhibit Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), a protein that plays an important role in tumor angiogenesis or blood vessel formation, and maintenance of existing tumor vessels. By inhibiting VEGF, Avastin is thought to interfere with the blood supply to tumors, a process that is critical to tumor growth and metastasis.
According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death among adults in America. Approximately 1 out of 4 patients with pancreatic cancer will live at least one year after the cancer is found. Only about 1 in 25 will survive for five years or more. Further, it is estimated that in 2005, nearly 32,000 will be diagnosed and around 31,000 will die from it.
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.