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Salvage chemoradiotherapy after primary chemotherapy for locally advanced pancreatic cancer: a single-institution retrospective analysis

Hiroshi Mayahara1*, Yoshinori Ito1, Chigusa Morizane2, Hideki Ueno2, Takuji Okusaka2, Shunsuke Kondo2, Naoya Murakami1, Madoka Morota1, Minako Sumi1 and Jun Itami1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Radiation Oncology, National Cancer Center Hospital, 5-1-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0045, Japan

2 Divisions of Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Oncology, National Cancer Center Hospital, 5-1-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0045, Japan

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BMC Cancer 2012, 12:609  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-609

Published: 20 December 2012



There is no consensus on the indication for salvage chemoradiotherapy (CRT) after failure of primary chemotherapy for locally advanced pancreatic cancer (LAPC). Here we report on the retrospective analysis of patients who received salvage CRT after primary chemotherapy for LAPC. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of salvage CRT after primary chemotherapy for LAPC.


Thirty patients who underwent salvage CRT, after the failure of primary chemotherapy for LAPC, were retrospectively enrolled from 2004 to 2011 at the authors’ institution. All the patients had histologically confirmed pancreatic adenocarcinoma.


Primary chemotherapy was continued until progression or emergence of unacceptable toxicity. Eventually, 26 patients (87%) discontinued primary chemotherapy because of local tumor progression, whereas four patients (13%) discontinued chemotherapy because of interstitial pneumonitis caused by gemcitabine. After a median period of 7.9 months from starting chemotherapy, 30 patients underwent salvage CRT combined with either S-1 or 5-FU. Toxicities were generally mild and self-limiting. Median survival time (MST) from the start of salvage CRT was 8.8 months. The 6 month, 1-year and 2-year survival rates from the start of CRT were 77%, 33% and 26%, respectively. Multivariate analysis revealed that a lower pre-CRT serum CA 19–9 level (≤ 1000 U/ml; p = 0.009) and a single regimen of primary chemotherapy (p = 0.004) were independent prognostic factors for survival after salvage CRT. The MST for the entire patient population from the start of primary chemotherapy was 17.8 months, with 2- and 3-year overall survival rates of 39% and 22%, respectively.


CRT had moderate anti-tumor activity and an acceptable toxicity profile in patients with LAPC, even after failure of gemcitabine-based primary chemotherapy. If there are any signs of failure of primary chemotherapy without distant metastasis, salvage CRT could be a treatment of choice as a second-line therapy. Patients with relatively low serum CA19-9 levels after primary chemotherapy may achieve higher survival rates after salvage CRT. The strategy of using chemotherapy alone as a primary treatment for LAPC, followed-by CRT with salvage intent should be further investigated in prospective clinical trials.

Trial registration


Pancreatic cancer; Locally advanced pancreatic cancer; Induction chemotherapy; Salvage therapy; Chemoradiotherapy; Prognostic factor