Pancreatic cancer is a rapidly progressive disease which is often only amenable to palliative treatment. Few patients respond to palliative chemotherapy, so surrogate markers indicating which patients are likely to respond to treatment are required. There is a well-established link between pro-inflammatory circulating cytokines and growth factors (CAF), and the development of neoplasia. Agents that may modulate these factors are of interest in developing potential novel therapeutic applications.

As part of a single-arm phase II trial in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer (APC) treated with gemcitabine and intravenous (i.v.) omega-3 rich lipid emulsion (n-3FA), serum samples were analysed for 14 CAF using a multiplex cytokine array. Baseline serum concentrations were correlated with overall (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS), and changes in concentration correlated with time and outcomes for CAF responders were analysed.

Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and fibroblast growth factor (FGF) concentrations reduced significantly with treatment over time. Low baseline interleukin (IL)-6 and -8 were correlated with improved OS. PDGF responders showed a tendency towards improved OS and FGF responders a significantly improved PFS.

Treatment with gemcitabine plus i.v. n-3FA may reduce concentrations of CAF which may be associated with an improved outcome. Baseline IL-6 and -8 may be surrogate markers for outcome in patients with APC treated with this regimen.