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.
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.
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%).
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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