A Study of Disulfiram and Chemotherapy in Pancreas Cancer Patients


About this study

This partially randomized phase I trial studies the side effects and best dose of disulfiram when given together with gemcitabine hydrochloride in treating patients with a solid tumor that cannot be removed by surgery (unresectable) or pancreatic cancer that has spread to other places in the body (metastatic) and to compare whether disulfiram and gemcitabine hydrochloride may reduce tumor induced muscle loss. Weight loss occurs in pancreatic cancer patients and is common in a multitude of other cancers. Patients with metastatic cancer and weight loss sometimes are not able to receive treatment due to physical weakness or debility. Disulfiram is a potential inhibitor of muscle degradation and may reduce tumor induced muscle wasting. Disulfiram may also help gemcitabine hydrochloride work better by making tumor cells more sensitive to the drug. Drugs used in chemotherapy, such as gemcitabine hydrochloride, work in different ways to stop the growth of tumor cells, either by killing the cells, by stopping them from dividing, or by stopping them from spreading. It is not yet know whether giving gemcitabine hydrochloride with or without disulfiram is a better treatment for unresectable solid tumors or metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Participation eligibility

Participant eligibility includes age, gender, type and stage of disease, and previous treatments or health concerns. Guidelines differ from study to study, and identify who can or cannot participate. There is no guarantee that every individual who qualifies and wants to participate in a trial will be enrolled. Contact the study team to discuss study eligibility and potential participation.

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Adult males and females, age ≥ 18 years.
  • Cohort 1 (Dose Escalation): histologic or cytologic proof of any solid tumor that is incurable with no standard therapy that is likely to make a major impact on clinical outcomes.  
  • Cohort 2 (MTD) only: metastatic adenocarcinoma of the pancreas.  Prior systemic treatment for metastatic disease is allowed.
  • Cohort 2 (MTD) only: Patient is thought to be a short- or long-term candidate for chemotherapy in the opinion of the treating oncologist.
  • Laboratory values obtained ≤ 7 days prior to registration:
    • ANC ≥ 500/mm^3;
    • Platelet ≥ 100,000/mm^3;
    • Total bilirubin ≤ 2 x upper limit of normal (ULN);
    • AST (SGOT) ≤ 3 x ULN;
    • Creatinine ≥ 1.5 x ULN;
    • Hemoglobin ≥ 9.0 g/dL.
  • Cohort 2 (MTD) only: PT/INR ≤ 1.5 x ULN (only if muscle biopsy has not been waived, does not apply to non-Mayo sites that will not be conducting biopsies).
  • Ability to provide written informed consent.
  • Life expectancy ≥ 12 weeks.
  • Cohort 2 (MTD) only: Patient willing to undergo muscle biopsies at baseline and after 28 to 35 days of disulfiram/chemotherapy or chemotherapy/placebo therapy as required by the protocol unless the muscle biopsy has been waived after discussion with the PI. Muscle biopsies will not be required/performed at non-Mayo Clinic sites.
  • Cohort 2 (MTD) only:  Patient willing to have paraffin-embedded slides of the primary pancreas tumor or metastatic site; if available, sent to Mayo investigators for this study.
  • For women of childbearing potential only:
    • Negative urine or serum pregnancy test done ≤ 7 days prior to registration.
  • ECOG performance status (PS) 0, 1 or 2.
  • Able to swallow or have medication administered through a G-tube and absorb the medication.
  • Patient willing to complete a medication diary.
  • Patient agrees to use acceptable form of contraception during the study and for up to 30 days after last study drug dose if female partner is of childbearing potential.
  • Acceptable forms of contraception:
    • Latex condom (always used with spermicide);
    • Diaphragm (always used with spermicide);
    • Cervical cap (always used with spermicide).
  • Acceptable forms of secondary contraception, when used along with a barrier method:
    • Hormonal contraception methods, including pills, patches, rings, or injections except progestin-only containing pills (i.e.,“Mini-pill”);
    • Tubal ligation;
    • Partner’s vasectomy;
    • Intrauterine device (non-progesterone T);
    • Vaginal sponge (containing spermicide).
  • Other acceptable forms:
    • 100% commitment to abstinence
  • Unacceptable forms of contraception for women of childbearing potential:
    • Oral contraception containing progestins only;
    • IUD progesterone T;
    • Female condom;
    • Natural family planning (rhythm method) or breastfeeding;
    • Fertility awareness;
    • Withdrawal;
    • Cervical shield.

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Known standard therapy for the patient’s disease that is potentially curative.
  • Uncontrolled intercurrent illness including, but not limited to, ongoing or active infection, including localized infections, symptomatic congestive heart failure, unstable angina pectoris, cardiac arrhythmia or psychiatric illness/social situations that would limit compliance with study requirements.
  • Untreated brain metastases.
  • Any of the following:
    • Pregnant women;
    • Nursing women.
  • This study involves an investigational agent whose genotoxic, mutagenic and teratogenic effects on the developing fetus and newborn are unknown.
  • Other concurrent chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy, any ancillary therapy considered investigational (utilized for a non-FDA-approved indication and in the context of a research investigation) or receiving any other investigational agent which would be considered as a treatment for the primary neoplasm.
  • Baseline of grade 2 or worse peripheral sensory neuropathy.
  • Receiving phenytoin.
  • Unable to abstain from alcohol for the duration of the study.



Participating Mayo Clinic locations

Study statuses change often. Please contact the study team for the most up-to-date information regarding possible participation.

Mayo Clinic Location Status Contact

Rochester, Minn.

Mayo Clinic principal investigator

Aminah Jatoi, M.D.

Closed for enrollment

Contact information:

Cancer Center Clinical Trials Referral Office

(855) 776-0015

More information


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