This study will examine the safety and effectiveness of the drugs Gemcitabine and Herceptin,
given in conjunction with radiation therapy, for treating patients with cancer of the
pancreas. Gemcitabine is standard therapy for advanced pancreatic cancer. It damages tumor
cells and may enhance the effects of radiation therapy. Herceptin is a genetically
engineered antibody that has prevented some tumors from growing in patients with breast
cancer. Because breast and pancreatic cancer cells share an characteristic related to how
Herceptin works (similar HER-2/neu receptor proteins), it is thought that this drug may also
inhibit growth of tumors of the pancreas.
Patients with pancreatic cancer may be eligible for this study. Candidates will be screened
with a physical examination, chest X-ray, blood tests, electrocardiogram, and computerized
tomography (CT) scan of the chest, abdomen and pelvis. They will also have a minor surgical
procedure called a laparoscopy to evaluate the extent of their cancer. This procedure, done
under general anesthesia, requires an overnight hospital stay. A small incision (about 1
inch) is made in the abdomen and a thin, flexible tube with a light and special fibers at
the end is inserted into the opening. This device, called a laparoscope, allows the surgeon
to see inside the abdominal cavity to evaluate the tumor and also to remove a small piece of
tumor tissue for examination.
Patients accepted into the study will be assigned to one of two treatment groups, according
to whether or not their tumor can be removed with surgery. Patients will be asked to
complete a Quality of Life Evaluation before treatment begins and again at each follow-up
visit. This 15-minute questionnaire assesses patients' feelings, their ability to carry out
usual activities, and the effects of therapy on their general health and well being.
Patients in both treatment groups will be given the same chemotherapy, on an outpatient
basis unless special circumstances require hospitalization. Gemcitabine is infused over 30
to 60 minutes through an intravenous catheter (IV)-a thin plastic tube inserted into an arm
vein. Herceptin is then given over 30 to 90 minutes through the same IV line. Radiation
therapy to the abdomen will start the same day, after the drugs have been administered, and
will continue for the next 4 days. This treatment cycle-chemotherapy plus 5 days of
radiation therapy-will be repeated each week for 6 weeks.
Within 6 weeks after the last treatment, the patient's tumor will be evaluated with a blood
test and CT scan of the chest, abdomen and pelvis to determine if it can be removed with
surgery. If so, the procedure will be done under general anesthesia and will require a 7-
to 10-day hospital stay. If the tumor cannot be removed with surgery, another biopsy will
be taken to evaluate the tumor's response to the chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
All patients will receive additional chemotherapy beginning 6 weeks after surgery (for
patients whose tumors were removed) or 6 weeks after radiation therapy (for patients whose
tumors could not be removed). Gemcitabine and Herceptin will be given IV once a week for 3
weeks followed by a week of rest. This 4-week treatment cycle will be repeated up to six
After treatment ends, patients will be evaluated with CT scans or X-rays and blood tests
every 3 to 4 months for the first 2 years and every 6 months thereafter to evaluate disease
This is a phase II study of gemcitabine and Herceptin given weekly as a bolus infusion
administered concurrently with radiotherapy in patients with regionally confined resectable
or unresectable adenocarcinoma of the pancreas that overexpress HER2. Patients will be
treated with external beam radiation in a standard manner over 6 weeks prior to surgical
exploration. Gemcitabine and Herceptin will be administered on the first day of irradiation
and weekly during the course of radiotherapy. Patients will be assessed for resectability
after treatment and may undergo a pancreatic resection. Patients will then be treated with
once weekly gemcitabine and herceptin for three weeks followed by 1 week of rest for up to 6
months. Patients will be assessed clinically for toxicity, tumor response, progression-free
survival, and overall survival.
Patients must have regionally confined histologically or cytologically proven
adenocarcinoma of the pancreas or Ampulla of Vater. Tumors must overexpress HER2 as
demonstrated by greater than or equal to 2+ immunohistochemical staining of the biopsy
Patients must sign an informed consent.
Patients must have an ECOG performance status of less than or equal to 2.
Patients should have a serum creatinine less than 1.5 mg/dl or creatinine clearance
greater than 60 ml/hr; SGOT and SGPT less than 4 times the upper limit of normal.
Patients must have an ANC greater than 2000/mm(3) and platelets greater than
Patients must be at least 18 years of age.
Patients of all racial and gender groups will be included.
Patients must not have received any prior gemcitabine, radiotherapy, or Herceptin therapy
for pancreatic cancer.
Patients cannot receive concurrent hormonal or immunotherapy treatment for pancreatic
Patients cannot receive any anti-tumor therapy within 30 days of protocol eligibility and
must have recovered from any prior treatment related toxicity.
Patients must not have evidence of distant metastases (e.g., peritoneal, carcinomatosis,
No concurrent second malignancy other than non-melanoma skin cancer or cervical carcinoma
Must not have medical conditions that preclude undergoing surgery or receiving therapy or
follow up, or have psychiatric disease which would prevent adequate informed consent or
render receiving this therapy unsafe.
No patients with an LV ejection fraction less than the lower limit of normal as determined
at the Clinical Center, NIH.
Women must not be pregnant or nursing due to the unknown effects of this therapy on the
unborn or nursing child.
Must not have received prior abdominal or pelvic radiation.
Must not have recent myocardial infarction (less than 6 months prior), unstable angina, or
congestive heart failure (NYHA class III or IV).
Must not have active diseases which make the patient more susceptible to infection,
including but not limited to AIDS, hepatitis, history of autoimmune disorders, because the
experimental treatment being evaluated in this protocol may be unsafe in the absence of an
intact immune system.