Adjuvant radiation therapy for pancreatic cancer: a review of the old and the new

J Gastrointest Oncol. 2015 Aug;6(4):436-44. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2078-6891.2015.014.


Surgery represents the only potential curative treatment option for patients diagnosed with pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Despite aggressive surgical management for patients deemed to be resectable, rates of local recurrence and/or distant metastases remain high, resulting in poor long-term outcomes. In an effort to reduce recurrence rates and improve survival for patients having undergone resection, adjuvant therapies (ATs) including chemotherapy and chemoradiation therapy (CRT) have been explored. While adjuvant chemotherapy has been shown to consistently improve outcomes, the data regarding adjuvant radiation therapy (RT) is mixed. Although the ability of radiation to improve local control has been demonstrated, it has not always led to improved survival outcomes for patients. Early trials are flawed in their utilization of sub-optimal radiation techniques, limiting their generalizability. Recent and ongoing trials incorporate more optimized RT approaches and seek to clarify its role in treatment strategies. At the same time novel radiation techniques such as intensity modulated RT (IMRT) and stereotactic body RT (SBRT) are under active investigation. It is hoped that these efforts will lead to improved disease-related outcomes while reducing toxicity rates.

Keywords: Pancreatic cancer (PC); adjuvant therapy (AT); chemoradiation therapy (CRT); radiation therapy (RT).

Publication types

  • Review