Background Pancreatic cancer carries a dismal prognosis, with surgical resection and adjuvant therapy offering the only hope for long-term survival. Recently, neoadjuvant therapy (NAT) has been employed to optimize outcomes. This study evaluates the impact of NAT in resected pancreatic cancer. Methods Patients with clinically staged I-III resected carcinoma of the pancreas who underwent at least NAT or surgery first in the 2003–2011 National Cancer Data Base were included. Univariate statistics were used to compare characteristics between treatment groups. Kaplan-Meier and multivariate survival analyses using Cox proportional hazards models were also performed. Results 1736 patients who underwent NAT, 6706 patients who underwent surgical resection alone, and 9890 patients who underwent surgical resection followed by adjuvant therapy were studied. In patients with clinical stage I disease, adjuvant therapy was associated with similar median survival to NAT, which was greater than surgery alone (24.9, 24.8, and 18.3 months, respectively, p < 0.0001). However, in stage II, NAT offered improved median survival over adjuvant therapy, which was greater than surgery alone (21.78, 20.63, and 12.1 months, respectively, p < 0.0001). In stage III disease, NAT had better median survival relative to other groups (22.6, 14.6, and 8.7 months, respectively, p < 0.0001). In multivariate survival analysis, patients who received NAT had a 33% lower hazard of mortality up to 5 years as compared to surgical resection alone (p < 0.0001). Conclusion Neoadjuvant therapy in advanced stage pancreatic cancer is associated with a survival benefit, perhaps related to a selection bias. In early stage pancreatic cancer, NAT is associated with similar survival.
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