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Treatment outcomes of erlotinib plus gemcitabine as late-line chemotherapy in unresectable pancreatic cancer

Objective: With the introduction of modified FOLFIRINOX and gemcitabine plus nab-paclitaxel therapy for unresectable pancreatic cancer, erlotinib plus gemcitabine therapy is now occasionally used as late-line therapy. This study investigates outcomes of treatment with erlotinib plus gemcitabine for unresectable pancreatic cancer.

Methods: We retrospectively analysed consecutive patients with unresectable pancreatic cancer treated with erlotinib plus gemcitabine as the third or later-line chemotherapy between March 2014 and December 2020 in our hospital.

Results: A total of 56 patients were included (third line/fourth or later line = 42/14). All patients were previously treated with gemcitabine plus nab-paclitaxel and 45 patients were previously treated with modified FOLFIRINOX. The median progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) were 1.6 and 4.6 months, respectively. The disease control rate was 21.4%. Performance status, modified Glasgow prognostic score and carcinoembryonic antigen level were independently associated with survival. Our prognostic model using these parameters could classify patients into good (n = 32) and poor (n = 24) prognostic groups. The median PFS and OS were longer in good than in poor prognostic group, but the difference in PFS was very small (PFS: 2.1 vs. 1.4 months, P = 0.01. OS: 6.8 vs. 2.4 months, P < 0.01). Interstitial pneumonia occurred in one patient (1.8%).

Conclusions: Benefits of erlotinib plus gemcitabine as late-line chemotherapy were limited, particularly with respect to PFS. Development of more effective third-line treatment options is desirable in the future.

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