The DNA content of 47 adenocarcinomas arising in the head of the pancreas from patients who had undergone successful pancreatoduodenectomy was measured. The DNA measurements of each tumor were made without knowledge of the clinical course by absorption cytometry performed on Feulgen-stained nuclei that had been disaggregated from pancreatic cancer tissue blocks. Forty-seven evaluable DNA distributions were obtained from specimens taken between 1975 and 1988. Of the 47 tumors, 19 (40%) were diploid and 28 (60%) were aneuploid cancers. The 19 patients with diploid cancers had a median survival time of 25 months. Median survival of the 28 patients with aneuploid cancers was 10.5 months. This difference was statistically significant (p = 0.003). A multivariate life table regression analysis demonstrated that the ploidy and proliferative index as determined by absorption cytometry were independent prognostic factors, as strong as or stronger than the number of positive nodes and tumor size. Thus cellular DNA content appears to be one of the most important predictors of survival in patients with adenocarcinoma of the head of the pancreas who have successfully undergone a pancreaticoduodenectomy.
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