Implications of inaccurate clinical nodal staging in pancreatic adenocarcinoma

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Abstract

Background.

Many patients with stage I-II pancreatic adenocarcinoma do not undergo resection. We hypothesized that (1) clinical staging underestimates nodal involvement, causing stage IIB to have a greater percent of resected patients and (2) this stage-shift causes discrepancies in observed survival.

Methods.

The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) research database was used to evaluate cause-specific survival in patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma from 2004–2012. Survival was compared using the log-rank test. Single-center data on 105 patients who underwent resection of pancreatic adenocarcinoma without neoadjuvant treatment were used to compare clinical and pathologic nodal staging.

Results.

In SEER data, medium-term survival in stage IIB was superior to IB and IIA, with median cause-specific survival of 14, 9, and 11 months, respectively (P < .001). Seventy-two percent of stage IIB patients underwent resection vs 28% in IB and 36% in IIA (P < .001). In our institutional data, 12.4% of patients had clinical evidence of nodal involvement vs 69.5% by pathologic staging (P < .001). Among clinical stage IA–IIA patients, 71.6% had nodal involvement by pathologic staging.

Conclusion.

Both SEER and institutional data support substantial underestimation of nodal involvement by clinical staging. This finding has implications in decisions regarding neoadjuvant therapy and analysis of outcomes in the absence of pathologic staging.

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