Purpose: There is debate regarding the definition and clinical significance of margin clearance in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA). A comprehensive archival analysis of surgical resection margins was performed to determine the effect on locoregional recurrence and survival, and the impact of adjuvant therapy in PDA. Methods: We identified 105 patients with resected PDA. Pancreatic, anterior, bile duct, and posterior surgical resection margins (PM; posterior surface, uncinate and vascular groove) were identified. Three pathologists reviewed all archival surgical specimens and recategorized each margin as tumor at ink/transected, <0.5, 0.5–1, >1–2, or >2 mm from the inked surface. The impact of these and other clinical variables was assessed on local control, disease-free survival (DFS), and overall survival (OS). Results: Among all margins, PM clearance up to 2 mm was prognostic of DFS (p = 0.01) and OS (p = 0.01). Dichotomizing the PM at 2 mm revealed it to be an independent predictor of local recurrence-free survival [hazard ratio HR] 0.20, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.048–0.881, p = 0.033), DFS (HR 0.46, 95% CI 0.22–0.96, p = 0.03), and OS (HR 0.31, 95% CI 0.14–0.74, p = 0.008). A margin status of >2 mm was also prognostic of OS in patients who received adjuvant chemotherapy (HR 0.31, 95% CI 0.11–0.89, p = 0.03), however this difference was mitigated in patients receiving adjuvant chemoradiotherapy (HR 0.40, 95% CI 0.10–1.58, p = 0.19). Conclusion: These data highlight the clinical significance of the PM and the lack of significance of other resection margins. Clearance in excess of 2 mm should be considered to improve long-term clinical outcomes. The use of adjuvant radiotherapy should be strongly considered in patients with PMs <2 mm.
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