Researchers reported a number of important findings in pancreatic cancer treatment at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology:

Pembrolizumab is being studied for treatment of certain pancreatic cancer tumors

The immunotherapy pembrolizumab is being studied for the treatment of pancreatic cancer tumors (as well as other solid tumors) with mismatch-repair (MMR) deficiency. In the trial, all patients had received at least one prior treatment and had evidence of progressive disease.

What Patients Need to Know

Early results found pembrolizumab to be “active” across a range of solid tumors with MMR deficiency, in terms of objective response, complete response, and disease stabilization. Other cancer types being studied include colorectal, osteosarcoma, gastroesophageal, and prostate.

Experimental drug increases progression-free survival in subset of patients with metastatic disease

According to a phase ll clinical trial, adding an experimental drug called pegylated recombinant human hyaluronidase (PEGPH20) to a standard chemotherapy regimen increased progression-free survival (the length of time that the cancer does not grow or spread) in a subset of patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer. PEGPH20 is designed to reduce the high internal pressure that can collapse blood vessels and prevent cancer-killing drugs from penetrating the tumor.

What Patients Need to Know

When given to trial participants whose tumors had high levels of PEGPH20’s target molecule, those participants had 4 more months of progression-free survival than did those in the control group, who received only standard chemotherapy. Based on these results, the research will continue in phase lll trials.

Promising activity in DNA repair for pancreatic cancer

There is growing interest in DNA repair as a therapy for pancreatic cancer. Ongoing clinical trials are testing platinum agents and/or PARP inhibitors in the subset of patients with BRCA2 or other gene mutations.

What Patients Need to Know

About 9 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer have BRCA1/BRCA2 gene mutations. Targeting the pancreatic cancer “microenvironment” is an active area of research, with early evidence of promising activity.

Immunotherapy being evaluated in combination with chemotherapy regimen

In ongoing trials, the immunotherapy pegilodecakin (PEGylated human interleukin-10) is being evaluated in combination with the chemotherapy FOLFOX (leucovorin, fluorouracil, and oxaliplatin) as treatment for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.

What Patients Need to Know

The combination of pegilodecakin and FOLFOX is being evaluated in phase l/lb and phase lll clinical trials. It has demonstrated promising efficacy and safety data, with a 1-year survival rate of 47 percent