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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Radical Surgical Resection Can Be Effective Against Pancreatic Cancer

July 30, 2007

By David Douglas

NEW YORK JUL 26, 2007 (Reuters Health) - Radical surgical resection, considered to be the only curative approach in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, appears to be worthwhile in appropriate patients, Texas-based researchers report in the July issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

"This study," lead investigator Dr. Yasser Shaib told Reuters Health, "shows that patients receiving curative intent surgery for pancreatic cancer do better than those who do not."

In the July issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology, Dr. Shaib of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Houston and colleagues report on their study of 32,348 cases of pancreatic cancer occurring between 1987 and 2001.

In all, 3545 of the patients (10.9%) received curative intent surgery (CIS).  This proportion decreased significantly with age and with advanced disease stage, but increased over time. Although there were significant regional differences, the proportion of patients undergoing CIS rose from 7.5% in 1987 to 1989 to 13.4% in 1999 to 2001.

Survival rates at 1 year were 53.0% for patients undergoing CIS compared with 20.6% among those who did not receive CIS; corresponding figures at 3 years were 12.2% versus 2.0%.

Altogether, the investigators found, "Early disease stage and receipt of CIS are the strongest predictors of improved survival among patients with pancreatic cancer."

In addition, although CIS rates were similar across racial groups, being black was an independent predictor of shorter survival.

Given these findings, Dr. Shaib concluded that "more aggressive surgical therapy should be considered in eligible patients. In addition, efforts should focus on detecting pancreatic cancer early so that curative surgery can be offered."