The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center

What is Chemotherapy?

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays directed at a tumor. This therapy damages the cancer cells and stops them from growing and dividing. It may be used before or after surgery to shrink the tumor alone or with chemotherapy for patients with inoperable tumors.

Side effects can include: fatigue, skin becomes red, tender, itchy, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, digestion problems. Usually subside when treatment ceases.

For patients with advanced pancreatic cancer who cannot have their tumors removed surgically, the focus of treatment involves symptom prevention and control. This may involve the use of:

  1. Surgery to relieve intestinal blockage or to perform nerve blocks for pain;
  2. Radiation therapy to relieve painful disease sites; or
  3. Chemotherapy to reduce the rate of tumor growth and to prolong survival

For some patients whose tumors cannot be removed surgically, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are sometimes given together to reduce the size of the tumor. The response of patients to treatment is frequently monitored using CAT scans or blood markers.

However, for most patients whose tumors cannot be removed by surgery, chemotherapy alone is the recommended treatment. The standard therapy at present is a drug called gemcitabine (Gemzar®). Dr. Dan Laheru at Johns Hopkins is also very interested in developing new agents for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Several studies are ongoing at The Johns Hopkins Hospital for patients who have not received any treatment, or for those whose tumor is not responding to standard treatments.

This page will describe a new vaccine approach being pioneered by Dr. Elizabeth Jaffee, as well as some of the work we have done treating patients with pancreatic cancer with radiation and chemotherapy.

While the standard of care is chemotherapy for advanced pancreas cancer remains Gemcitabine as single agent, there have been a number of promising studies that have tried to improve upon the standard of care. These schedules remain investigational as they have not been definitively compared prospectively against Gemcitabine. The Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) has proposed looking at two promising schedules against the standard of care:

  1. Gemcitabine with standard doses and infusion schedule
  2. Gemcitabine with prolonged infusion schedule
  3. Gemcitabine with prolonged infusion administered with Oxaliplatin

Trials are now open at Johns Hopkins. If you would like to learn more about these research studies, please contact Dr. Dan Laheru at:

The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins
The Bunting-Blaustein Cancer Research Building Room G89
1650 Orleans Street Baltimore, MD. 21231-1000
Phone: 410-955-8974
Fax: 410-955-0125
E-mail: laherda@jhmi.edu