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Arsenic Trioxide in Patients With Adenocarcinoma of the Pancreas Refractory to Gemcitabine

A Phase II Trial of the University of Chicago Phase II Consortium

Kindler, Hedy Lee, MD*; Aklilu, Mebea, MD*; Nattam, Sreenivasa, MD; Vokes, Everett E., MD*

American Journal of Clinical Oncology: December 2008 - Volume 31 - Issue 6 - p 553-556
doi: 10.1097/COC.0b013e318178e4cd
Original Article: Gastrointestinal

Objectives: There is no effective therapy for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who fail initial therapy with gemcitabine. Arsenic trioxide has potent antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects in pancreatic cancer cell lines. We conducted a multicenter phase II trial in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer who experienced disease progression on or after a gemcitabine-containing regimen.

Methods: Arsenic trioxide 0.3 mg/kg was administered intravenously over 1 hour daily for 5 consecutive days every 28 days. Restaging computed tomography scans were obtained every 2 cycles.

Results: Thirteen patients were enrolled between December 2002 and November 2003. Twenty-four cycles were administered (median 2; range 1–2). There were no grade 3/4 hematologic toxicities; grade 1/2 anemia and leukopenia occurred in 50% and 25% of patients, respectively. Grade 3 toxicities included fatigue and thrombosis in 17% of patients. Only 1 patient developed a prolongation of the QTc interval. There were no objective responses. Median progression-free survival was 1.6 months (95% confidence interval, 1.2–1.9). Median survival was 3.8 months (95% confidence interval, 1.6–6.8).

Conclusions: Despite promising in vitro data, arsenic trioxide has no activity in pancreatic cancer patients who develop progressive disease after gemcitabine. Multicenter phase II trials are feasible in this patient population, and novel agents are clearly needed.

From the *Section of Hematology/Oncology, University of Chicago Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois; and †Fort Wayne Medical Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

This study was supported by National Cancer Institute Grant N01-CM-17102.

Reprints: Hedy Lee Kindler, MD, University of Chicago Medical Center, Section of Hematology/Oncology, 5841 S. Maryland Ave, MC 2115, Chicago, IL 60637-1463. E-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.