(HealthDay News) — Adjuvant gemcitabine treatment after surgical removal of pancreatic cancer significantly improves both disease-free and overall survival compared with observation, according to a study published in the Oct. 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Helmut Oettle, M.D., Ph.D., from Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and colleagues randomly assigned 368 patients after complete resection of pancreatic cancer to either adjuvant gemcitabine treatment for 6 months or to observation alone.

After a median follow up of 136 months, the researchers found that the gemcitabine group had a significant improvement in median disease-free survival (13.4 versus 6.7 months; hazard ratio, 0.55). Overall survival also significantly improved after gemcitabine treatment (hazard ratio, 0.76), with improved five-year survival (20.7% versus 10.4%) and 10-year survival (12.2% versus 7.7%).

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“Among patients with macroscopic complete removal of pancreatic cancer, the use of adjuvant gemcitabine for 6 months compared with observation alone resulted in increased overall survival as well as disease-free survival,” Oettle and colleagues conclude.

The study was funded in part by Lilly Germany, the manufacturer of gemcitabine; several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly.