Neoadjuvant therapy for localized pancreatic cancer: Guiding principles

Amir Fathi, Kathleen K. Christians, Ben George, Paul S. Ritch, Beth A. Erickson, Parag Tolat, Fabian M. Johnston, Douglas B. Evans, Susan Tsai

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


The management of localized pancreatic cancer (PC) remains controversial. Historically, patients with localized disease have been treated with surgery followed by adjuvant therapy (surgery-first approach) under the assumption that surgical resection is necessary, even if not sufficient for cure. However, a surgery-first approach is associated with a median overall survival of only 22-24 months, suggesting that a large proportion of patients with localized PC have clinically occult metastatic disease. As a result, adjuvant therapy has been recommended for all patients with localized PC, but in actuality, it is often not received due to the high rates of perioperative complications associated with pancreatic resections. Recognizing that surgery may be necessary but usually not sufficient for cure, there has been growing interest in neoadjuvant treatment sequencing, which benefits patients with both localized and metastatic PC by ensuring the delivery of oncologic therapies which are commensurate with the stage of disease. For patients who have clinically occult metastatic disease, neoadjuvant therapy allows for the early delivery of systemic therapy and avoids the morbidity and mortality of a surgical resection which would provide no oncologic benefit. For patients with truly localized disease, neoadjuvant therapy ensures the delivery of all components of the multimodality treatment. This review details the rationale for a neoadjuvant approach to localized PC and provides specific recommendations for both pretreatment staging and treatment sequencing for patients with resectable and borderline resectable (BLR) disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)418-429
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Gastrointestinal Oncology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015


  • Neoadjuvant therapy
  • Pancreatic cancer (PC)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Gastroenterology

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  • Cite this

    Fathi, A., Christians, K. K., George, B., Ritch, P. S., Erickson, B. A., Tolat, P., Johnston, F. M., Evans, D. B., & Tsai, S. (2015). Neoadjuvant therapy for localized pancreatic cancer: Guiding principles. Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology, 6(4), 418-429.