Pathological Complete Response in Patients With Resected Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma After Preoperative Chemotherapy

JAMA Netw Open. 2024 Jun 3;7(6):e2417625. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.17625.


Importance: Preoperative chemo(radio)therapy is increasingly used in patients with localized pancreatic adenocarcinoma, leading to pathological complete response (pCR) in a small subset of patients. However, multicenter studies with in-depth data about pCR are lacking.

Objective: To investigate the incidence, outcome, and risk factors of pCR after preoperative chemo(radio)therapy.

Design, setting, and participants: This observational, international, multicenter cohort study assessed all consecutive patients with pathology-proven localized pancreatic adenocarcinoma who underwent resection after 2 or more cycles of chemotherapy (with or without radiotherapy) in 19 centers from 8 countries (January 1, 2010, to December 31, 2018). Data collection was performed from February 1, 2020, to April 30, 2022, and analyses from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2023. Median follow-up was 19 months.

Exposures: Preoperative chemotherapy (with or without radiotherapy) followed by resection.

Main outcomes and measures: The incidence of pCR (defined as absence of vital tumor cells in the sampled pancreas specimen after resection), its association with OS from surgery, and factors associated with pCR. Factors associated with overall survival (OS) and pCR were investigated with Cox proportional hazards and logistic regression models, respectively.

Results: Overall, 1758 patients (mean [SD] age, 64 [9] years; 879 [50.0%] male) were studied. The rate of pCR was 4.8% (n = 85), and pCR was associated with OS (hazard ratio, 0.46; 95% CI, 0.26-0.83). The 1-, 3-, and 5-year OS rates were 95%, 82%, and 63% in patients with pCR vs 80%, 46%, and 30% in patients without pCR, respectively (P < .001). Factors associated with pCR included preoperative multiagent chemotherapy other than (m)FOLFIRINOX ([modified] leucovorin calcium [folinic acid], fluorouracil, irinotecan hydrochloride, and oxaliplatin) (odds ratio [OR], 0.48; 95% CI, 0.26-0.87), preoperative conventional radiotherapy (OR, 2.03; 95% CI, 1.00-4.10), preoperative stereotactic body radiotherapy (OR, 8.91; 95% CI, 4.17-19.05), radiologic response (OR, 13.00; 95% CI, 7.02-24.08), and normal(ized) serum carbohydrate antigen 19-9 after preoperative therapy (OR, 3.76; 95% CI, 1.79-7.89).

Conclusions and relevance: This international, retrospective cohort study found that pCR occurred in 4.8% of patients with resected localized pancreatic adenocarcinoma after preoperative chemo(radio)therapy. Although pCR does not reflect cure, it is associated with improved OS, with a doubled 5-year OS of 63% compared with 30% in patients without pCR. Factors associated with pCR related to preoperative chemo(radio)therapy regimens and anatomical and biological disease response features may have implications for treatment strategies that require validation in prospective studies because they may not universally apply to all patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma* / drug therapy
  • Adenocarcinoma* / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma* / therapy
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / methods
  • Oxaliplatin / therapeutic use
  • Pancreatectomy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / mortality
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Oxaliplatin