pT but not pN stage of the 8th TNM classification significantly improves prognostication in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
The UICC TNM (tumour-node-metastasis) staging system for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has been a matter of debate over decades because survival prediction based on T stages was weak and unreliable. To improve staging, the recently published 8th TNM edition (2016) introduced a conceptually completely changed strictly size-based T staging system and a refined N stage for PDAC. To investigate the clinical value of the novel TNM classification, we compared the prognostic impact of pT and pN stage between the 7th and 8th edition in two well-characterised independent German PDAC cohorts from different decades, including a total number of 523 patients. Former UICC T staging (7th edition 2009) resulted in a clustering of pT3 cases (72% and 85% of cases per cohort, respectively) and failed to show significant prognostic differences between the four stages in one of the investigated cohorts (p = 0.074). Application of the novel size-based T stage system resulted in a more equal distribution of cases between the four T categories with a predominance of pT2 tumours (65% and 60% of cases). The novel pT staging algorithm showed greatly improved discriminative power with highly significant overall differences between the four pT stages in both investigated cohorts in univariate and multivariate analyses (p< 0.001, each). In contrast, no prognostic differences were observed between the recently introduced pN1 and pN2 categories in both cohorts (p = 0.970 and p = 0.061). pT stage of resected PDAC patients according to the novel UICC staging protocol (8th edition) significantly improves patient stratification, whereas introduction of an extended N stage protocol does not demonstrate high clinical relevance in our cohorts.