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Prognostic value of CA 19-9, CEA, CRP, LDH and bilirubin levels in locally advanced and metastatic pancreatic cancer: results from a multicenter, pooled analysis of patients receiving palliative chemotherapy



CA 19-9 is the only established tumor marker in pancreatic cancer (PC); the prognostic role of other serum markers like CEA, CRP, LDH or bilirubin has not yet been defined.


We pooled pre-treatment data on CA 19-9, CEA, CRP, LDH and bilirubin levels from two German multicenter randomized phase II trials together with prospective patient data from one high-volume German Cancer Center. Marker levels were assessed locally before the start of palliative first-line therapy for advanced PC and serially during treatment (for CA 19-9 only). Clinical and biomarker data (overall 12 variables) were correlated with the efficacy endpoints time-to-progression (TTP) and overall survival (OS) by using uni- and multivariate Cox models.


Data from 291 patients were included in this pooled analysis; 253 patients (87 %) received treatment within prospective clinical trials. Median TTP in the study cohort was 5.1 months and median OS 9.0 months. In univariate analysis, pre-treatment CA 19-9 (HR 1.55), LDH (HR 2.04) and CEA (HR 1.89) levels were significantly associated with TTP. Regarding OS, baseline CA 19-9 (HR 1.46), LDH (HR 2.07), CRP (HR 1.69) and bilirubin (HR 1.62) were significant prognostic factors. Within multivariate analyses, pre-treatment log [CA 19-9] (as continuous variable for TTP) and log [bilirubin] as well as log [CRP] (for OS) had an independent prognostic value. A CA 19-9 decline of ≥25 % during the first two chemotherapy cycles was predictive for TTP and OS, independent of the applied CA 19-9 assay.


Baseline CA 19-9 and CA 19-9 kinetics during first-line chemotherapy are prognostic in advanced PC. Besides that finding other serum markers like CRP, LDH and bilirubin can also provide prognostic information on TTP and OS.

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The authors would like to thank all patients and their families, nurses, study coordinators and investigators that actively participated in the Ro96 and the GEMOXCET study, thereby enabling this pooled analysis. This work is part of the doctoral thesis of Michael Haas.

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Stefan Boeck.

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Haas, M., Heinemann, V., Kullmann, F. et al. Prognostic value of CA 19-9, CEA, CRP, LDH and bilirubin levels in locally advanced and metastatic pancreatic cancer: results from a multicenter, pooled analysis of patients receiving palliative chemotherapy. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 139, 681–689 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00432-012-1371-3

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  • Gemcitabine
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prognostic factor