There currently is no generally accepted standard of care for pancreatic cancer that has migrated to other parts of the body, but a current clinical trial is studying the effect that a new combination of cancer drugs has on the spread of the disease.

FirstHealth of the Carolinas is recruiting participants for the CanStem111P trial that will investigate which is more effective: the current standard chemotherapy regimen (nab-paclitaxel and gemcitabine) or the standard regimen used in combination with BB1-608.

BB1-608 is a newly discovered drug that may treat cancer by targeting cancer stem cells, the highly malignant cells that are believed to be responsible for the growth, relapse, and spread of many cancers. Other research studies indicate it may be a potential treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Charles Kuzma, M.D., a medical oncologist with the FirstHealth Outpatient Cancer Center at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, is the lead investigator of the local study. He sees value in participating in any clinical trial that targets pancreatic cancer, the seventh leading cause of cancer-related deaths.

“Current standards of care for frontline pancreatic cancer have been underwhelming at this point with very limited life expectations,” Dr. Kuzma says, “so any chance to improve on that would be of potential benefit. Both the National Cancer Institute and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network have recommended clinical trial participation as the preferred treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer.”

The FirstHealth study is recruiting patients with newly diagnosed metastatic pancreatic cancer who have not received prior treatment for advanced disease and who would consider receiving chemotherapy. These patients should also be in good condition in terms of physical ability, daily activity and ability to care for themselves.

Not appropriate for the study are patients who are unwilling to consider chemotherapy as well as those in frail health.

Participants will be randomly placed into one of two treatment groups at the start of the trial. Fifty percent will receive treatment with the standard therapy while the other 50 percent will receive the standard medications plus BB1-608.

Participation will continue until the patient or the physician determines that the trial treatment is no longer helping or if the side effects are unacceptable or if the patient chooses to withdraw. There is no cost to participate beyond that of standard care.

The FirstHealth Outpatient Cancer Center is one of only two sites in North Carolina selected for the CanStem 111P study. Dr. Kuzma attributes this to the FirstHealth cancer program’s “excellent track record” in cancer clinical trials and to its designation as a Comprehensive Community Hospital Cancer Center.

“We see this as real potential value to our patients moving forward,” he says.

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