Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Pancreatic Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Pancreatic Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Stage I and II Pancreatic Cancer

Approximately 20% of patients present with pancreatic cancer amenable to local surgical resection with operative mortality rates of approximately 1% to 16%.[1,2,3,4,5] Using information from the Medicare claims database, a national cohort study of more than 7,000 patients undergoing pancreaticoduodenectomy between 1992 and 1995 revealed higher in-hospital mortality rates at low-volume hospitals (<1 pancreaticoduodenectomy per year) versus high-volume hospitals (>5 per year) (16% vs. 4%, respectively, P < .01).[1] Complete resection can yield 5-year survival rates of 18% to 24%, but ultimate control remains poor because of the high incidence of both local and distant tumor recurrence.[6,7,8][Level of evidence: 3iA] The role of postoperative therapy (chemotherapy with or without chemoradiation therapy [CRT]) in the management of this disease remains controversial because much of the randomized clinical trial data available are statistically underpowered and provide conflicting results.[9,10,11,12,13]

Three phase III trials prior to 2000 examined the potential overall survival (OS) benefit of postoperative adjuvant 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)–based CRT. A small randomized trial conducted by the Gastrointestinal Study Group (GITSG) in 1985 demonstrated a significant but modest improvement in median-term and long-term survival over resection alone with postoperative bolus 5-FU and regional split course radiation given at a dose of 40 Gy.[9][Level of evidence: 1iiA];[10][Level of evidence: 2A] An attempt by the European Organization for the Research and Treatment of Cancer to reproduce the results of the GITSG trial failed to confirm a significant benefit for adjuvant CRT over resection alone;[11][Level of evidence: 1iiA] however, this trial treated patients with pancreatic as well as periampullary cancers (with a potential better prognosis). A subset analysis of the patients with primary pancreatic tumors indicated a trend towards improved median, 2-year, and 5-year OS with adjuvant therapy compared with surgery alone (17.1 months, 37% and 20% vs. 12.6 months, 23% and 10%, P = .09 for median survival).

Recommended Related to Cancer

About This PDQ Summary

Purpose of This Summary This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the treatment of childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions. Reviewers and Updates This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Pediatric...

Read the About This PDQ Summary article > >

An updated analysis of a subsequent European Study for Pancreatic Cancer (ESPAC 1) trial examined only patients who underwent strict randomization following pancreatic resection. The patients were assigned to one of four groups (observation, bolus 5-FU chemotherapy, bolus 5-FU CRT, or CRT followed by additional chemotherapy). With a 2 × 2 factorial design reported, at a median follow-up of 47 months, a median survival benefit was observed for only the patients who received postoperative 5-FU chemotherapy. These results were difficult to interpret, however, because of a high rate of protocol nonadherence and the lack of a separate analysis for each of the four groups in the 2 × 2 design.[12,13,14][Level of evidence: 1iiA]

The United States Gastrointestinal Intergroup has reported the results of a randomized phase III trial (RTOG-9704) that included 451 patients with resected pancreatic cancers who were assigned to receive either postoperative infusional 5-FU plus infusional 5-FU and concurrent radiation or adjuvant gemcitabine plus infusional 5-FU and concurrent radiation.[15] The primary endpoints were OS for all patients and OS for patients with pancreatic head cancers.


WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms And Treatment
what is your cancer risk
cancer fighting foods
Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis And Early Detection
Integrative Medicine Cancer Quiz
Patrick Swayzes Widow Healing From Loss
Pets Improve Your Health
Resolved To Quit Smoking

WebMD Special Sections