Background: Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is an aggressive malignancy, with most patients diagnosed with advanced or metastatic disease. Palliative therapies comprise an important, but underutilized, aspect of care. This aim of this study was to characterize the trends, factors, and outcomes associated with utilization of palliative therapies. Methods: Patients with stage IV pancreatic adenocarcinoma from the 2003-2011 U.S. National Cancer Database were identified and stratified by receipt of palliative therapy. Linear regression, multivariable logistic regression, and survival analyses using multivariate proportional hazards models were performed. Results: Sixty-eight thousand and seventy-five patients with stage IV disease were identified, of which only 11,449 (16.8%) underwent designated palliative therapy. The majority received systemic chemotherapy (37.2%), followed by surgery (19.0%), pain management alone (15.3%), radiation (8.1%), referral alone (11.7%), or a combination thereof (8.7%). Utilization of palliative therapies increased from 12.9% in 2003 to 19.2% in 2011 (P < 0.001). Patients were less likely to undergo palliation when older than 60 (OR 0.89, P < 0.001), or of black or Hispanic race (OR 0.83, P < 0.001; OR 0.80, P < 0.001, respectively, vs. Caucasians). Presence of comorbidities increased the use of palliative therapy (OR 1.16 per comorbidity, P < 0.001). Survival was improved in those receiving palliative systemic chemotherapy (HR 0.55, P < 0.001) and palliative surgery (HR 0.94, P < 0.001), although this may be due to selection bias. Conclusions: Despite the continued dismal prognosis of pancreatic cancer, palliation of symptoms remains underutilized in this country, particularly in non-Caucasian, older patients. Increased awareness of palliative options may help increase its utilization.
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