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Resectable Distal Pancreas Cancer: Time to Reconsider the Role of Upfront Surgery

Daniel W. Nelson DO, Shu-Ching Chang PhD, Gary Grunkemeier PhD, Ahmed N. Dehal MD, David Y. Lee MD, Trevan D. Fischer MD, L. Andrew DiFronzo MD, Victoria V. O’Connor MD
Pancreatic Tumors
Volume 25, Issue 13 / December , 2018



Neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) is increasingly utilized to optimize survival in proximal pancreatic adenocarcinoma. However, few studies have explored the impact of NAC in distal pancreas cancer.


Patients with resectable pancreatic adenocarcinoma of the body or tail treated with either upfront pancreatectomy or NAC followed by surgery were identified in the 2006–2014 National Cancer Database. Trends in utilization, predictors of use, and impact of NAC on overall survival were determined.


Of 1485 patients, 176 (11.9%) received NAC. Use of NAC increased from 9.3% in 2006 to 16.9% in 2013 [odds ratio 1.14; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.05–1.24; p = 0.001]. NAC patients were younger, had higher clinical stage, and preoperative CA 19-9 levels (all p < 0.05). After adjustment for patient-, tumor-, and treatment-related factors, increased clinical stage was the greatest independent predictor of neoadjuvant approach (p < 0.001). On multivariable analysis, survival benefit from NAC did not reach threshold of significance (95% CI 0.66–1.04; p = 0.10) for the entire cohort. However, NAC was associated with a significant survival advantage in clinical stage III with a 51% decreased yearly risk of death (adjusted hazard ratio 0.49; 95% CI 0.25–0.98; p = 0.04). A trend towards improved survival with NAC was observed among stage IIA (p = 0.09) and IIB (p = 0.07) patients.


Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is associated with improved overall survival in Stage III distal pancreatic adenocarcinoma and shows promise in earlier stage disease. However, only a small percentage of patients receive NAC. Prospective evaluation of NAC in distal pancreatic adenocarcinoma is warranted based on these findings.

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