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Am Surg. 2000 Apr;66(4):378-85; discussion 386.

Pancreatic carcinoma deemed unresectable at exploration may be resected for cure: an institutional experience.

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Department of Surgery, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19111, USA.


Only a minority of patients with a diagnosis of pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PA) have disease amenable to curative resection. Between April 1987 and March 1999, 40 patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma deemed unresectable at exploration at other institutions were considered for neoadjuvant treatments and then re-evaluated for possible re-exploration. We retrospectively compared the clinical outcomes, including overall survival (OS), among three groups: Group A, 22 previously unresectable patients who were subsequently successfully resected, 20 after induction therapy; Group B, 31 patients who received preoperative chemoradiotherapy before their only operation; and Group C, 33 patients who were primarily resected, 27 of whom were then treated with adjuvant therapy. Of those resectable from Group A, 5 required portal venorrhaphy and 3 had hepatic artery reconstruction. Eighteen of the 40 patients were unresectable because of progression of disease with a mean OS of 8 months; 12 were assessed at second laparotomy; 6 were excluded from second operation on the basis of preoperative imaging studies. Kaplan-Meier curves showed no differences in OS among the three groups: OS in Group A was 34 months; Group B, 21; and Group C, 13 (P = 0.15). Margin status was comparable in all three groups (P = 0.52). As expected, nodal positivity was greatest in Group C (P = 0.001). There were no operative mortalities in Group A, and the morbidity rate was comparable with that of Groups B and C. Upon re-evaluation, many tumors (54%) previously deemed "unresectable" were surgically extirpated for cure with a median survival comparable with that of patients who did not undergo previous exploration.

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