News Release

New study in JNCCN suggests way to predict outcomes with high accuracy prior to surgery for pancreatic cancer patients

According to Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers, metabolic imaging in combination with traditional treatment response assessment methods can provide clinicians with critical information to guide therapy for pancreatic cancer patients

Peer-Reviewed Publication

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Mark J. Truty, MD, MS, Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center

image: Mark J. Truty, MD, MS, Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center view more 

Credit: Used with permission of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, all rights reserved.

PLYMOUTH MEETING, PA [September 8, 2022] — New research in the September 2022 issue of JNCCN—Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network finds the use of positron emission tomography (PET) with 18-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) tracer adds significant prognostic benefit in objectively assessing neoadjuvant chemotherapy response in borderline resectable/locally advanced pancreatic cancer patients prior to surgery.

"We were astonished by how metabolic imaging can now predict outcomes with high accuracy before any surgical intervention,” said senior research Mark J. Truty, MD, MS, Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Not only that, but FDG-PET response was the single largest preoperative predictor of survival for these patients. FDG-PET decisively identified more than 85% of the patients suspected to have major pathological responses. This is a very impressive proportion and better than the currently-available biochemical response assessment through CA 19-9 levels alone, and far superior to standard imaging, which is not at all predictive."

"Because we intend to use preoperative chemotherapy to benefit patients with pancreatic cancer, we need to be sure that therapy is doing what we think it's doing—killing the tumor," agreed co-lead author Ajit H. Goenka, MD, also with the Mayo Clinic. “We must ‘do no harm’ by objectively showing treatment efficacy before complex surgical resection. That is what the FDG-PET scan allows—to see whether tumor is still viable or not after initial treatment, in order to help us make significant treatment decisions to proceed with complex surgery, continue current treatment, or consider a chemotherapy switch."

According to previous studies, traditional imaging modalities such as CT and/or MRI are ineffective at predicting outcomes from the pre-surgery treatment of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in pancreatic cancer patients. Measuring biochemical CA 19-9 level changes is similarly inconsistent and not possible in a significant proportion of patients. This left clinicians without many options for assessing the likelihood of long-term survival before initiating major surgery.

“Previously, we needed to wait until after complex surgery to tell how the pancreatic cancer responded to the neoadjuvant therapy,” said lead researcher Amro M. Abdelrahman, MBBS, MS, Mayo Clinic. “Now that is not the case. With FDG-PET we can tell patients how the cancer responded to neoadjuvant therapy before going through major surgical resection. Going forward, we encourage providers to combine all available response measures (i.e. clinical, radiologic, biochemical, and metabolic) to make suitable decisions about neoadjuvant therapy alterations and final decisions for surgery or no surgery on a case-by-case basis."

The study included 202 patients with borderline resectable/locally advanced pancreatic cancer who received either mFOLFIRINOX or gemcitabine/nab-paclitaxel as first-line neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Major metabolic response captured by FDG-PET was highly associated with major pathologic response, i.e. tumor reduction, regardless of biochemical response as measured by CA 19-9 levels. Both factors combined were even more predictive.

“Given the very aggressive nature of pancreatic cancer, knowing if a pancreatic tumor has good response to the pre-operative treatment indicating a favorable outcome and better survival after surgery—versus no response or only partial response, indicating more aggressive tumors that may necessitate additional or alternate preoperative therapy—has been particularly challenging for clinicians for a long time,” commented Mahmoud M. Al-Hawary, MD, a radiologist at University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, who was not involved with this research. “CT and MRI, which are the standard of care for staging pancreatic cancer at presentation before the start of chemotherapy, have limited ability to distinguish viable tumor from scar tissue, since both look similar. Even when tumors are responding, it can be difficult to assess how much via standard imaging alone.”

Dr. Al-Hawary, who is a member of the NCCN Guidelines® Panel for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma, continued: “To answer this question, we need a different type of imaging, one not based on size or shape but some other indicator of tumor function and viability to improve upon the limited clinical markers that are in current use. PET imaging can provide this functional information by showing presence or absence of tumor activity, which has been extensively proven to predict tumor response in various solid tumors. This study suggests PET can demonstrate the same in pancreatic cancer, to help stratify patients and guide treatment before they go to surgery, in conjunction with the existing blood and standard imaging indicators. Further study in wider patient groups in different institutions will help confirm this value and could potentially change practice patterns.”

To read the entire study, visit Complimentary access to “FDG-PET Predicts Neoadjuvant Therapy Response and Survival in Borderline Resectable/Locally Advanced Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma” is available until December 10, 2022.

JNCCN’s Growing Impact

The impact factor for JNCCN continues to grow steadily, hitting 12.693 for the latest year. This marks an increase of more than six points since 2017. The scientometric index is calculated by Clarivate, based on the yearly average number of citations of articles published during the previous two years. With the current impact factor, JNCCN now ranks 23rd out of all 245 oncology journals.

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About JNCCN—Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

More than 25,000 oncologists and other cancer care professionals across the United States read JNCCN—Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. This peer-reviewed, indexed medical journal provides the latest information about innovation in translational medicine, and scientific studies related to oncology health services research, including quality care and value, bioethics, comparative and cost effectiveness, public policy, and interventional research on supportive care and survivorship. JNCCN features updates on the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®), review articles elaborating on guidelines recommendations, health services research, and case reports highlighting molecular insights in patient care. JNCCN is published by Harborside. Visit To inquire if you are eligible for a FREE subscription to JNCCN, visit Follow JNCCN on Twitter @JNCCN.

About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) is a not-for-profit alliance of leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research, and education. NCCN is dedicated to improving and facilitating quality, effective, equitable, and accessible cancer care so all patients can live better lives. The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) provide transparent, evidence-based, expert consensus recommendations for cancer treatment, prevention, and supportive services; they are the recognized standard for clinical direction and policy in cancer management and the most thorough and frequently-updated clinical practice guidelines available in any area of medicine. The NCCN Guidelines for Patients® provide expert cancer treatment information to inform and empower patients and caregivers, through support from the NCCN Foundation®. NCCN also advances continuing education, global initiatives, policy, and research collaboration and publication in oncology. Visit for more information and follow NCCN on Facebook @NCCNorg, Instagram @NCCNorg, and Twitter @NCCN

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