Background: Pancreatic cancer is a rapidly fatal disease with very few 5-year survivors even after aggressive surgical treatment. Our objective was to determine the actual 5-year survival rate of patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma who underwent a resection with curative intent in 5 teaching hospitals within the University of Toronto system. We then sought to determine clinical and histopathologic features of 5-year survivors to determine factors associated with a favorable prognosis.
Study design: A retrospective chart review was performed using surgeon and hospital databases to identify patients who had a surgical resection for pancreatic adenocarcinoma between January 1, 1988, and December 31, 1996.
Results: One hundred twenty-three patients who had a resection and a pathologic diagnosis of pancreatic adenocarcinoma with complete followup were identified from seven surgical practices. Mean survival (+/- standard error) in this series was 31.7 +/- 3.5 months (median 13.6 months). There were 18 5-year survivors (14.6%), including 5 patients (4.1%) who survived longer than 10 years. The survivors included 13 patients who had undergone a Whipple resection, 4 who had undergone a distal pancreatectomy, and 1 who had undergone a total pancreatectomy. Tumor size, lack of jaundice at presentation, negative nodal disease, low tumor grade, and a low tumor stage were all significant predictors of survival in univariate analysis (all p < 0.05). Only tumor stage (hazard ratio [95% confidence interval]: stage IIA 1.5 [0.8 to 2.8], stage IIB 2.6 [1.4 to 4.7], stage III 1.8 [0.8 to 4.3]) and tumor grade (hazard ratio [95% confidence interval]: moderately differentiated 1.6 [0.9 to 2.9], and poorly differentiated 3.1 [1.6 to 6.2]) were independently associated with survival differences in a multivariate Cox proportional hazards model.
Conclusions: We conclude that longterm survival from pancreatic adenocarcinoma is possible if the disease is identified in its early stages. These and other similar data should provide further stimulus for the development and evaluation of novel screening strategies to improve early detection of this disease.