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Keywords:

  • pancreatic cancer;
  • periampullary cancer;
  • quality of life;
  • adjuvant intra-arterial chemoradiotherapy;
  • observation

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. MATERIALS AND METHODS
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. CONFLICT OF INTEREST DISCLOSURES
  7. REFERENCES

BACKGROUND:

Adjuvant therapies for pancreatic and periampullary cancer reportedly achieve only a marginal survival benefit. In this randomized controlled trial, 120 patients with resected pancreatic or periampullary cancer received either adjuvant celiac axis infusion chemotherapy combined with radiotherapy (CAI/RT) or no adjuvant treatment. The objective of the study was to compare the quality of life (QoL) in patients who received CAI/RT after pancreatoduodenectomy with the QoL in patients who did not receive adjuvant treatment.

METHODS:

During and after CAI/RT, QoL was assessed using the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer QoL Questionnaire C30 every 3 months during the first 24 months after randomization.

RESULTS:

Eighty-six percent of patients (n = 103) completed 1 or more questionnaires. In total, 355 questionnaires were completed. The results indicated that CAI/RT did not impair physical, emotional, or social functioning. During and after CAI/RT, patients had significantly less pain (P = .02) and less nausea and vomiting (P = .01). Overall QoL (global functioning) tended to be better (P = .08) after CAI/RT.

CONCLUSIONS:

Over a period of 24 months, CAI/RT improved QoL compared with observation alone in patients with resected pancreatic and periampullary cancer. This beneficial effect of CAI/RT was most prominent in the latter half of the follow-up. Cancer 2010. © 2010 American Cancer Society.

Pancreatic cancer is currently 1 of the world's most fatal malignant diseases and ranks fourth in cancer-related mortality.1 Even after radical resection, the median survival is 12 to 15 months,2, 3 and the 5-year survival rate ranges from 5% to 25%.2, 4-6

Considering the short life expectancy after radical resection and the morbidity related to a pancreatoduodenectomy,7 the value of resection has been debated. However, several trials demonstrated that, after pancreatoduodenectomy, quality of life (QoL) returned to preoperative values 3 months after surgery8 or was even better than before surgery measured up to 6 months after surgery in patients with localized pancreatic cancer.9, 10 However, compared with laparoscopic surgery for a benign cause (ie, laparoscopic cholecystectomy), patients after pylorus-preserving pancreatoduodenectomy for pancreatic adenocarcinoma have a significantly worse QoL.11 This deleterious effect on QoL may be explained by both the extent of surgery and the primary indication for surgery, ie, a benign lesion versus a malignant lesion.

To improve survival after pancreatoduodenectomy in patients with pancreatic or periampullary tumors, several clinical trials have studied the efficacy of chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. Most studies investigated improvements in disease-free or overall survival by adjuvant therapy.2, 6, 12-17 Only 2 randomized controlled trials also measured the effect of adjuvant chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy on QoL. In the first European Study Group for Pancreatic Cancer trial (ESPAC-1), similar QoL was observed after 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)–based chemotherapy (425 mg/m2 with folinic acid 20mg/m2 on 5 consecutive days for 6 cycles) versus no chemotherapy and 5-FU–based chemoradiotherapy (500 mg/m2 on the first 3 days of each week of radiotherapy; 10 × 2 grays [Gy]) versus no chemoradiotherapy. The Charite Oncology Studies in Gastrointestinal Cancer (CONKO)-001) trial compared chemotherapy (6 cycles of 3 weekly infusions of gemcitabine 1000 mg/m2) with observation and reported no adverse effect on QoL.6, 18

In a randomized controlled trial, we compared intra-arterial chemotherapy (celiac axis infusion) plus radiotherapy (CAI/RT) with observation after pancreatoduodenectomy in patients with periampullary or pancreatic cancer.19 This therapy involves 6 separate weeks of hospitalization, indwelling catheters, several angiographies, 6 weeks of daily radiotherapy on an outpatient basis, and considerable toxicity, mainly of hematologic origin; the therapeutic results were reported previously.

To investigate whether the efficacy of this treatment was counterbalanced with detrimental effects on QoL, analysis of the QoL was a predefined secondary endpoint. The results of the QoL analysis are described in this report.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. MATERIALS AND METHODS
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. CONFLICT OF INTEREST DISCLOSURES
  7. REFERENCES

Because the trial design has been described extensively before, we summarize only the main aspects.19

Study Design

After pancreatoduodenectomy, patients with histologically proven adenocarcinoma of the pancreas or the periampullary region were assigned randomly to receive either adjuvant CAI/RT or observation. Intra-arterial chemotherapy consisted of 6 cycles of mitoxantrone (10 mg/m2 on Day 1), 5-FU and folinic acid (600 mg/m2 and 170 mg/m2, respectively, on Days 2-4), and cisplatin (60 mg/m2 on Day 5); patients also received 54 Gy (total dose) of radiotherapy. During each cycle of chemotherapy, patients were admitted to hospital, had an indwelling intra-arterial catheter, and were obliged to stay in bed for the entire week. During radiotherapy, patients were treated on an outpatient basis and received 1.8 Gy each weekday for 6 weeks. Including intervals, the entire schedule lasted for >8 months. None of the patients received further chemotherapy or radiotherapy in case of recurrence. Patients signed an informed consent.

Quality-of-Life Assessments

Quality of life was measured using European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire C30 (EORTC QLQ-C30) version 3.0,20 which is a 30-item, self-reporting questionnaire that was developed to assess the QoL of cancer patients. It is grouped into 5 functional subscales (role, physical, cognitive, emotional, and social functioning). It also contains 3 multi-item symptom scales (fatigue, pain, and nausea and vomiting), individual questions concerning common symptoms in cancer patients (dyspnea, insomnia, appetite loss, constipation, diarrhea, and financial difficulties), and 2 questions that assess overall QoL (global functioning).

Quality of life was assessed every 3 months in the first 24 months after randomization. The first QoL questionnaire was filled out at 3 months and was used as the baseline. The QoL forms were sent to the patients before a visit to an outpatient clinic, where filled out forms were collected.

Outcome Measures and Statistical Analysis

Survival curves were computed according to the Kaplan-Meier method from the date of randomization to the date of death from any cause or were censored at the last follow-up. Median survival was calculated on the basis of the curve. Survival curves were compared using the log-rank test.

All scores from the EORTC QLQ-C30 (version 3) questionnaire were transformed to a scale from 0 to 100 using a linear transformation.20 Higher scores for a functional scale represent a higher level of functioning, ie, a better state of the patient. Conversely, higher scores for symptoms indicate a higher level of complaints.

Nine scales of the EORTC QLQ-C30 were selected a priori for this analysis: physical, emotional, and social functioning; fatigue; pain; nausea and vomiting; loss of appetite; diarrhea; and global functioning. Compliance was calculated as the number of completed questionnaires expressed as a percentage of the number of questionnaires expected (per time interval). Fifty percent of the standard deviation of any QoL tool equivalent to 8 to 10 points usually is considered clinically significant21

All QoL scales were compared between randomized arms with repeated measurement analyses of variance using SAS PROC MIXED (version 8.2; SAS Institute, Inc., Cary, NC). For all scales, we was evaluated whether the treatment effect differed between time points of assessment with interaction terms. Other analyses were done using SPSS version 11.5 (SPSS, Inc., Chicago, Ill). All evaluations were done on an intent-to-treat basis, and P = .05 (2-sided) was considered the limit of significance.

RESULTS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. MATERIALS AND METHODS
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. CONFLICT OF INTEREST DISCLOSURES
  7. REFERENCES

Summary of Clinical Results

Between June 2000 and March 2007, 120 patients with resected pancreatic or periampullary adenocarcinoma were randomized to receive either intra-arterial chemoradiotherapy (n = 59) or observation (n = 61). Table 1 lists the characteristics of these patients. The median follow-up was 17 months.19

Table 1. Baseline Characteristics of Eligible Patients
CharacteristicNo. of Patients (%)P
CAI/RT, n = 59Observation, n = 61
  1. CAI/RT indicates intra-arterial chemotherapy (celiac axis infusion) plus radiotherapy; NS, nonsignificant; PPPD, pylorus-preserving pancreatoduodenectomy (corresponds with a better overall quality of life); KPS, Karnofsky performance status.

Median age [range], y62 [33-75]69 [36-79]<.001
Sex
 Men26 (44)32 (53)NS
 Women33 (56)29 (47)NS
Type of surgery
 Whipple procedure16 (27)14 (23)NS
 PPPD43 (73)46 (75)NS
 Distal pancreatectomy0 (0)1 (2)NS
Median time from surgery to randomization [range], d27 [15-70]29 [15-57]NS
Median KPS [range]90 [80-100]90 [80-100]NS
Pathologic diagnosis
 Pancreatic head31 (53)31 (51)NS
 Periampullary cancer28 (47)30 (49)NS
Tumor classification
 Pancreatic head
  T22 (7)3 (10)NS
  T328 (90)24 (77)NS
  T41 (3)4 (13)NS
 Periampullary
  T29 (32)8 (27)NS
  T313 (47)16 (53)NS
  T46 (21)6 (20)NS
Lymph node status
 Pancreatic head
  N013 (42)16 (52)NS
  N118 (58)15 (48)NS
 Periampullary
  N012 (43)12 (40)NS
  N116 (57)18 (60)NS
Resection status
 Pancreatic head
  R023 (74)22 (71)NS
  R18 (26)9 (29)NS
 Periampullary
  R023 (82)29 (97)NS
  R15 (28)1 (3)NS
Histopathologic grade
 Well differentiated6 (10)7 (12)NS
 Moderately differentiated34 (58)45 (74)NS
 Poorly differentiated18 (30)8 (13).021
 Missing1 (2)1 (2)NS

Thirty-six percent (21 of 59) of all patients in the CAI/RT group received all 6 cycles, including radiotherapy, as specified in the protocol. Causes for discontinuation of treatment as planned were adverse toxic events in 13 of 52 patients (25%), progressive disease in 11 patients (21%), patient refusal in 3 patients (6%), and comorbidity in 3 other patients. Six hundred twenty celiac axis catheterizations were performed, and catheter luxations were observed in 14% of the placements.

After CAI/RT, patients had a significantly prolonged time to progression (12 months vs 7 months; log-rank P<.02). Overall, no significant survival benefit was observed after CAI/RT compared with observation (median, 19 months vs 18 months; P = .25), although cancer-specific survival tended toward significance (29 months vs 18 months; log-rank P = .052).

Quality of Life

Table 2 shows the proportion of patients with assessable QoL forms in each time interval. Eighty-six percent (n = 103) of patients completed 1 or more questionnaires, including 51 patients in the treatment arm and 52 patients in the observation arm, and 71% of patients completed at least 2 questionnaires. In total, 355 questionnaires were completed, with a median of 4 questionnaires completed (range, 1-7 questionnaires) by patients who underwent CAI/RT and a median of 3 questionnaires completed (range, 1-7 questionnaires) by patients in the observation arm. Overall, 60% of the expected questionnaires were completed and assessable for analysis. The rate of assessable questionnaires decreased over time, with more forms available in the CAI/RT arm in the first 6 months but no difference after the end of treatment. The decrease in the number of questionnaires was not related to toxicity. A median of 5 questionnaires were obtained from the 13 patients who suffered from toxicity.

Table 2. Response Rates/Compliance
MonthsCAI/RTObservationP
No. of Patients in Time WindowPatients With Assessable Questionnaires, %No. of Patients in Time WindowPatients With Assessable Questionnaires, %
  1. CAI/RT indicates intra-arterial chemotherapy (celiac axis infusion) plus radiotherapy; NS, nonsignificant.

357815963<.05
652875643<.01
945734959NS
1236444053NS
1534503259NS
1829482352NS
2124632055NS
2421431644NS

After CAI/RT, no significantly better physical, emotional, or social functioning scores were observed during the total observation period, although the difference in physical functioning tended toward significance (P = .10; mean difference, 5.4 points) in favor of the treatment arm (Table 3, Fig. 1). Although the treatment effect did not differ significantly between time points, better mean values were observed for CAI/RT at 15 months and 18 months (P<.05 for both).

thumbnail image

Figure 1. Mean European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality-of-Life Questionnaire C30 scores on physical functioning after adjuvant intra-arterial chemotherapy (celiac axis infusion) combined with radiotherapy (CAI/RT) or observation in patients with resected pancreatic and periampullary cancer according to the number of months after randomization. Note that a higher score corresponds with better physical functioning. Error bars represent standard errors. P value denotes overall P value.

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Table 3. Quality of Life Scores
ScaleAdjusted Mean ValuesaDifference95% CI DifferenceOverall P
CAI/RTObservation
  • CAI/RT indicates intra-arterial chemotherapy (celiac axis infusion) plus radiotherapy; CI, confidence interval.

  • a

    Adjusted for age and sex.

Functioning scales
 Social Functioning85814.0−3.7 to 11.5.30
 Physical Functioning85795.4−1.0 to 11.8.10
 Emotional Functioning81756.3−1.2 to 13.9.11
Symptom scales
 Pain1726−9.7−17.9 to −1.5.02
 Fatigue2530−6.3−14.2 to 1.5.12
 Nausea and vomiting612−5.9−10.4 to −1.4.01
 Loss of appetite1116−4.4−11.1 to 2.3.20
 Diarrhea1116−5.0−12.5 to 2.6.20
Overall quality of life
 Global functioning73666.5−0.6 to 13.6.08

For the symptom scales, patients had significantly less pain (overall P = .02; mean difference, 9.7 points) (Fig. 2). This difference was most pronounced at 15 months and at 18 months (P < .05 for both). There also was significantly less nausea and vomiting (P = .01; mean difference, 5.9 points) after CAI/RT, with the most distinct differences observed at 15 months and at 24 months (P < .05 for both) (Fig. 3). For the other symptom scales, there was no significant difference between randomized arms. In particular, fatigue did not occur more often during or after CAI/RT (P = .12; mean difference, 6.3 points) (Fig. 4).

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Figure 2. Mean European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality-of-Life Questionnaire C30 pain scores after adjuvant intra-arterial chemotherapy (celiac axis infusion) combined with radiotherapy (CAI/RT) and observation in patients with resected pancreatic and periampullary cancer. Note that a higher score corresponds with more pain.

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thumbnail image

Figure 3. Mean European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality-of-Life Questionnaire C30 nausea and vomiting scores after adjuvant intra-arterial chemotherapy (celiac axis infusion) combined with radiotherapy (CAI/RT) and observation in patients with resected pancreatic and periampullary cancer. Note that a higher score corresponds with more nausea and vomiting.

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thumbnail image

Figure 4. Mean European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality-of-Life Questionnaire C30 fatigue scores after adjuvant intra-arterial chemotherapy (celiac axis infusion) combined with radiotherapy (CAI/RT) and observation in patients with resected pancreatic and periampullary cancer. Note that a higher score corresponds with more fatigue.

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Toxicity occurred in 13 patients and did not negatively influence their QoL compared with patients who received the entire schedule or patients in the observation arm. Overall QoL (global functioning) tended toward significance (P = .08; mean difference, 6.5 points) in favor of the CAI/RT arm (Fig. 5).

thumbnail image

Figure 5. Mean European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality-of-Life Questionnaire C30 scores on overall quality of life (global functioning) after adjuvant intra-arterial chemotherapy (celiac axis infusion) combined with radiotherapy (CAI/RT) and observation in patients with resected pancreatic and periampullary cancer. Note that a higher score corresponds with a better overall quality of life.

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DISCUSSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. MATERIALS AND METHODS
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. CONFLICT OF INTEREST DISCLOSURES
  7. REFERENCES

In this randomized controlled trial,19 we compared CAI/RT with observation after macroscopic complete (R0/R1) pancreatoduodenectomy. Patients who were randomized to the treatment arm received 6 cycles of chemotherapy and 30 × 1.8 Gy radiation. Including intervals, the entire schedule lasted a minimum of 8 months with intermittent hospital admissions. Although there was no overall survival benefit after intra-arterial chemoradiotherapy, cancer-related survival tended to be better in the treatment arm. Intra-arterial chemoradiotherapy also significantly extended the time to disease progression in all patients and reduced the number of liver metastases in patients who had periampullary tumors.

In this study, QoL measured according to the EORTC QLQ-C30 principles was improved from baseline after CAI/RT for all endpoints analyzed. On all functioning scales, higher mean scores were reported, indicating better functioning; although none of these scores were significant. For all symptom scores, patients reported fewer complaints, leading to lower mean scores. For pain and for nausea and vomiting, these scores were significantly lower after CAI/RT than the scores in the observation arm for the first 24 months after randomization. For pain scores, for which there was a mean difference of 9.7 points between CAI/RT and surgery alone, this difference also was clinically relevant. For all QoL scores, the difference between the CAI/RT arm and the observation arm was constant over the 24 months, but the effect of CAI/RT on QoL was most apparent from 12 months to 24 months after the start of therapy. In the first 12 months of QoL assessment, ie, during CAI/RT, symptoms like fatigue, nausea and vomiting, or pain did not occur more often. Overall QoL tended to be better after CAI/RT (P = .08).

A limitation of our study is the absence of questionnaires at baseline. Therefore, we could not evaluate changes from baseline, which are expected to produce more precise results. Our results are valid, however, because, from the randomization, it was reasonable to expect that the baseline QoL would be comparable between the groups. Also, the number of questionnaires returned per patient was comparable.

One important feature of QoL assessment is that it is subjective. This is particularly relevant: CAI/RT may be expected to have a negative influence on a patient's QoL because of the impact of the number and length of hospital admissions, the number of outpatient visits, and the toxicity of the therapy itself.

However, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy are not necessarily associated with an impaired QoL. More effective therapies produce a better QoL, because minor tumor shrinkage relieves some of the symptoms or because they produce a longer period without disease and, thus, less time involving the problems of recurrent disease and its treatment. Thus, a longer or more toxic treatment is not always associated with lower QoL. QoL even can improve when therapy has no objective effect; this may be because of the placebo effect, the provision of hope, or the increased medical attention associated with being in a study. In addition, side effects are not major determinants of QoL.22

A comparison of our results with results from previous randomized controlled trials of adjuvant therapies in pancreatic and periampullary cancer2, 6 indicates that this is the first trial to demonstrate that adjuvant therapy benefited QoL up to 24 months after resection. One of the reasons for this difference is that the CONKO-001 trial used the Spitzer Quality of Life Index, a questionnaire focused on more nonspecific QoL parameters, such as daily activity, social support, and mental well being. Our use of the EORTC QLQ-C30, which focuses both on functioning scales and on cancer-specific complaints like pain, fatigue, and nausea and vomiting, is important, because it is especially on these symptom scores that we observed a beneficial difference for the CAI/RT arm. Although the ESPAC-1 trial also evaluated QoL with the EORTC QLQ-C30 questionnaire, it produced a QoL response percentage of 53%, and it measured QoL only for the first 12 months after resection. In our trial, the most noticeable differences in all QoL dimensions occurred after the first 12 months. If the ESPAC-1 trial had continued to assess QoL over a longer period, then it may have revealed a similar difference, although this effect also might have been reduced by the 2 × 2 factorial design.

Because survival after adjuvant therapy for resected pancreatic or periampullary cancer has not lengthened substantially over the years, the objective of adjuvant therapy in these patients at least should be to improve the QoL during the short remaining lifetime. We have demonstrated that CAI/RT, although a demanding therapy, improves QoL from baseline. Therefore, we believe that it is incorrect to deny cancer patients intensive therapies only because they do not result in a significant survival benefit. One of the possible objective factors underlying this beneficial effect on QoL is the finding that the time to disease progression is extended. When patients with recurrent disease develop duodenal obstruction, and especially pain, the postponement of recurrence leads to a longer complaint-free period and, thus, better QoL. Because none of our patients were treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy after recurrence, there was no treatment-related effect to cause a decline in QoL in the second half of the follow-up.

In conclusion, 5-FU–based intra-arterial chemotherapy combined with radiotherapy improves QoL compared with observation alone in patients with resected pancreatic and periampullary cancers. Over a period of 24 months, patients suffer from significantly less pain and significantly less nausea and vomiting. This beneficial effect of CAI/RT is most prominent in the latter half of the follow-up and probably is caused by a delay in tumor recurrence and related symptoms. Given the disappointing effect on overall survival of adjuvant therapy after pancreatoduodenectomy, QoL during this period is of eminent importance. Impairment in QoL during or after treatment is no longer a reason to deny patients adjuvant therapies.

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. MATERIALS AND METHODS
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. CONFLICT OF INTEREST DISCLOSURES
  7. REFERENCES