Background: The role of adjuvant treatment in pancreatic cancer remains uncertain. The European Study Group for Pancreatic Cancer (ESPAC) assessed the roles of chemoradiotherapy and chemotherapy in a randomised study.
Methods: After resection, patients were randomly assigned to adjuvant chemoradiotherapy (20 Gy in ten daily fractions over 2 weeks with 500 mg/m(2) fluorouracil intravenously on days 1-3, repeated after 2 weeks) or chemotherapy (intravenous fluorouracil 425 mg/m(2) and folinic acid 20 mg/m(2) daily for 5 days, monthly for 6 months). Clinicians could randomise patients into a two-by-two factorial design (observation, chemoradiotherapy alone, chemotherapy alone, or both) or into one of the main treatment comparisons (chemoradiotherapy versus no chemoradiotherapy or chemotherapy versus no chemotherapy). The primary endpoint was death, and all analyses were by intention to treat. Findings 541 eligible patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma were randomised: 285 in the two-by-two factorial design (70 chemoradiotherapy, 74 chemotherapy, 72 both, 69 observation); a further 68 patients were randomly assigned chemoradiotherapy or no chemoradiotherapy and 188 chemotherapy or no chemotherapy. Median follow-up of the 227 (42%) patients still alive was 10 months (range 0-62). Overall results showed no benefit for adjuvant chemoradiotherapy (median survival 15.5 months in 175 patients with chemoradiotherapy vs 16.1 months in 178 patients without; hazard ratio 1.18 [95% CI 0.90-1.55], p=0.24). There was evidence of a survival benefit for adjuvant chemotherapy (median survival 19.7 months in 238 patients with chemotherapy vs 14.0 months in 235 patients without; hazard ratio 0.66 [0.52-0.83], p=0.0005). Interpretation This study showed no survival benefit for adjuvant chemoradiotherapy but revealed a potential benefit for adjuvant chemotherapy, justifying further randomised controlled trials of adjuvant chemotherapy in pancreatic cancer.