The Current Status of Combined Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy for Locally Advanced or Resected Pancreas Cancer

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  • 1 Department of Radiology, Division of Hematology/Oncology and the Division of Radiation Oncology, Northwestern University, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, Chicago, Illinois
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Pancreas cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer deaths. Even for the small percentage of patients who can undergo surgical resection of the primary tumor, the risk of recurrence remains unacceptably high. For patients with localized disease that is not amenable to surgical resection, pain related to the primary tumor can significantly impair quality of life. Attempts to improve the duration and quality of life for these patients have included both chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The addition of chemotherapy to radiation may enhance the local effects of radiation or provide treatment of disease outside the radiation field. The results of clinical trials evaluating the appropriate therapy for locally advanced or resected disease have been inconsistent. In some instances, the methods used in these studies became outdated before the results were available. Hopefully, advances in radiation techniques and systemic drug therapy will provide more durable and clinically relevant results. Meanwhile, treatment decisions should be tailored to the clinical situation, including consideration of treatment toxicity and therapy goals. Recognizing which patients are likely to benefit from combination therapy or systemic therapy alone is a subject of future and ongoing clinical trials.

Correspondence: Mary F. Mulcahy, MD, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Northwestern University, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, 676 North Saint Clair, Suite 850, Chicago, IL 60611. E-mail: m-mulcahy@northwestern.edu
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