Liver, Pancreas and Bile Duct Program (HPB)


Pancreatic Cancer - Drug Therapy (Medical Oncology)

Chemotherapy is an element of treatment for almost all patients with pancreatic cancer. Recent advances include the development of new drug agents, new drug combinations and new treatment protocols.

Treatment Settings for Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy strategies vary according to the stage and operability of the pancreatic tumor.

  • Preoperative chemoradiation: Recent research shows that giving patients a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy (chemoradiation) before tumor removal surgery provides several benefits. Chemoradiation can shrink the tumor before surgery, enabling a more complete tumor removal. It can also provide better control of microscopic disease. Patients with borderline resectable tumors may receive an initial course of chemotherapy alone, followed by the chemoradiation treatment. (For more information on our “surgery last” approach, see Chemoradiation Before Surgery.)
  • Postoperative chemotherapy: Drug therapy is sometimes given to patients following surgery in an attempt to eliminate or slow the growth of any remaining microscopic cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy for metastatic disease: For patients whose pancreatic cancer has spread to other organs, surgery and radiation therapy offer no benefit. Chemotherapy can help extend survival for these patients.

Clinical Trials

Researchers are continuously developing new drugs and new drug therapies for pancreatic cancer. See clinical trials for a complete list of investigations currently available at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin.