Open Access Open Badges Research article

Quality of life across chemotherapy lines in patients with cancers of the pancreas and biliary tract

August Zabernigg1*, Johannes M Giesinger2, Georg Pall3, Eva-Maria Gamper2, Klaus Gattringer1, Lisa M Wintner24, Monika J Sztankay24 and Bernhard Holzner2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, Kufstein County Hospital, Endach 27, A-6330, Kufstein, Austria

2 Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Innsbruck Medical University, Anichstr.35, A-6020, Innsbruck, Austria

3 Department of Internal Medicine, Innsbruck Medical University, Anichstr.35, A-6020, Innsbruck, Austria

4 Leopold-Franzens-University of Innsbruck, Innrain 52, A-6020, Innsbruck, Austria

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BMC Cancer 2012, 12:390  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-390

Published: 6 September 2012



In patients with cancers of the pancreatic and biliary tract quality of life (QOL) improvement is the main treatment goal, since survival can be prolonged only marginally. Up to date, knowledge on QOL impairments throughout the entire treatment process, often including several chemotherapy lines, is scarce. Our study aimed at investigating QOL trajectories from adjuvant treatment to palliative 3rd-line therapy


Patients were included in routine electronic patient-reported outcome monitoring at Kufstein County Hospital at the time of diagnosis and assessed with the EORTC QLQ-C30 during each chemotherapy cycle.


Eighty out of 147 patients with pancreatic cancer or cancer of the bile ducts treated at the Kufstein County Hospital, fulfilled inclusion criteria and could be included in the study (mean age 67.4 years; 53.8% women). Physical, Emotional and Cognitive Functioning, and Global QOL deteriorated across chemotherapy lines, whereas Fatigue, Pain, Dyspnoea, Sleeping Disturbances, Diarrhoea, and Taste Alterations increased. With regard to Physical Functioning, Global QOL, Fatigue, Dyspnoea, Diarrhoea and Taste Alterations, the patients receiving adjuvant or 1st-line palliative chemotherapy did not differ significantly. Most patients in 2nd- or 3rd-line chemotherapy showed significantly higher impairments and symptom burden. However, patients under 1st and 2nd-line treatment showed stable QOL trajectories, whereas 3rd-line patients perceived substantial deteriorations.


The results suggest early palliative treatment initiation to stabilise QOL on a level as high as possible. The continuous QOL improvement during adjuvant treatment, probably reflecting post-operative recovery, may indicate that deleterious effects of adjuvant chemotherapy on QOL are highly unlikely.

Quality of life, Pancreatic cancer; Cancer of biliary tract; Chemotherapy; Electronic patient-reported outcome monitoring