Mayo Clinic finds 3 factors may extend life for pancreatic cancer patients

A new study from the Mayo Clinic found that a pre-surgery treatment plan may help extend life for advanced pancreatic cancer patients.

According to Mayo researchers, most pancreatic cancer patients whose tumors grow outside the pancreas and encompass veins and arteries have been told the cancer is inoperable and they should prepare for an average survival time of 12 to 18 months.

But, the new study found a pre-surgery treatment plan focused on three factors can extend life years beyond that. The three factors include extended chemotherapy before surgery, a CA 19-9 tumor marker that fell to normal level after chemotherapy, and a tumor that, when surgically removed, was found to be all or mostly dead due to chemotherapy.

During the study, researchers followed 194 Mayo Clinic patients who received chemotherapy followed by radiation and surgery. An average survival time of 58.8 months, or just under five years, was achieved. The researchers found that patients with the three factors had significantly longer survival times than those who did not.

“We now have more advanced surgical techniques and more effective chemotherapy and radiation therapy. We can take all of these advances and put them together to get the outcomes we are looking for,” Dr. Truty, an oncologic surgeon at Mayo Clinic, said in a statement. “The goal is to extend patients’ lives and maintain or improve their quality of life.”

According to Mayo, about 55,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year. In about a third, the tumor has not spread to other organs, but has grown outside the pancreas to wrap around veins and arteries.

"The conventional wisdom has been that surgery gives pancreatic cancer patients the only chance at long-term survival, but that these patients are inoperable due to a high risk that cancer will be left behind and their prognosis for survival will be poor. The Mayo Clinic study refutes that conventional wisdom," the researchers said.