Author(s): Penz M, Kornek GV, Raderer M, UlrichPur H, Fiebiger W
Abstract BACKGROUND: Patients with advanced biliary tract carcinoma face a dismal prognosis as no effective palliative therapy has been defined. The aim of the present phase II investigation was to evaluate the therapeutic efficacy and tolerance of a two-weekly high-dose gemcitabine regimen in this patient population. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Thirty-two consecutive patients with locally unresectable or metastatic biliary tract cancer were enrolled in this multicenter phase II trial. Treatment consisted of gemcitabine 2200 mg/m2 given as a 30-min intravenous infusion every two weeks for a duration of six months unless there was prior evidence of progressive disease. RESULTS: After a median number of 12 treatment courses, 7 of 32 (22\%) patients had a partial response that lasted for a median duration of 6.0 months (range 3.5-10.0). Fourteen additional patients (44\%) had stable disease, whereas eleven patients (34\%) progressed despite therapy. The median time to progression was 5.6 months (range 1.8-13.0); median survival time was 11.5 months (range 3.0-24.0), and the probability of surviving beyond 12 months was 44\%. The tolerance of treatment was remarkable with only two patients each experiencing grade 3 leukocytopenia, granulocytopenia and/or thrombocytopenia, and one patient had grade 3 anaemia. Similarly, nonhaematologic side effects were infrequent, and generally mild to moderate. CONCLUSIONS: Two-weekly high-dose gemcitabine seems to represent a potentially effective, safe and well-tolerated regimen for the palliative treatment of patients with advanced biliary tract cancer.