BACKGROUND: In a phase 1-2 trial of albumin-bound paclitaxel (nab-paclitaxel) plus gemcitabine, substantial clinical activity was noted in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. We conducted a phase 3 study of the efficacy and safety of the combination versus gemcitabine monotherapy in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer. METHODS: We randomly assigned patients with a Karnofsky performance-status score of 70 or more (on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating better performance status) to nab-paclitaxel (125 mg per square meter of body-surface area) followed by gemcitabine (1000 mg per square meter) on days 1, 8, and 15 every 4 weeks or gemcitabine monotherapy (1000 mg per square meter) weekly for 7 of 8 weeks (cycle 1) and then on days 1, 8, and 15 every 4 weeks (cycle 2 and subsequent cycles). Patients received the study treatment until disease progression. The primary end point was overall survival; secondary end points were progression-free survival and overall response rate. RESULTS: A total of 861 patients were randomly assigned to nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine (431 patients) or gemcitabine (430). The median overall survival was 8.5 months in the nab-paclitaxel-gemcitabine group as compared with 6.7 months in the gemcitabine group (hazard ratio for death, 0.72; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.62 to 0.83; P<0.001). The survival rate was 35% in the nab-paclitaxel- gemcitabine group versus 22% in the gemcitabine group at 1 year, and 9% versus 4% at 2 years. The median progression-free survival was 5.5 months in the nab-paclitaxel-gemcitabine group, as compared with 3.7 months in the gemcitabine group (hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.58 to 0.82; P<0.001); the response rate according to independent review was 23% versus 7% in the two groups (P<0.001). The most common adverse events of grade 3 or higher were neutropenia (38% in the nab-paclitaxel-gemcitabine group vs. 27% in the gemcitabine group), fatigue (17% vs. 7%), and neuropathy (17% vs. 1%). Febrile neutropenia occurred in 3% versus 1% of the patients in the two groups. In the nab-paclitaxel-gemcitabine group, neuropathy of grade 3 or higher improved to grade 1 or lower in a median of 29 days. CONCLUSIONS: In patients with metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma, nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine significantly improved overall survival, progression-free survival, and response rate, but rates of peripheral neuropathy and myelosuppression were increased.
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