Introduction Adrenocortical cancer (ACC) recurs despite apparent complete resection. We examined the survival and palliative benefit of resection for recurrent ACC. Methods A review of all patients undergoing operation for ACC between 1980 and 2010 at our institution was performed in which we compared resection with nonoperative therapy. Results Overall, 164 patients underwent operation for ACC, 125 of whom underwent a complete resection (R0). Recurrence occurred in 93 R0 patients (median, 15 months; range, 1.5-150 months). Symptoms at recurrence were present in 71% (66/93), including pain (34%) and hormone excess (43%). There were 67 patients who underwent reoperation for recurrence. Forty-eight of 67 patients underwent R0 resection for recurrence. Operative patients had a greater overall operative versus nonoperative management or no therapy (65 months vs 6 months, P <.01). Median survival for nonoperatively managed patients (226 days) and those undergoing no therapy (179 days) was less than for debulking (1,272 days, P =.002). R0 for recurrence (P =.005) and a disease-free interval >6 months (P <.001) were associated with survival after operation, whereas original tumor size (P =.47), grade (P =.8), and stage (P =.23) were not. Pain and hormonal symptoms improved in 84% of operative patients versus 29% of nonoperatively managed patients (P =.005). Debulking had similar symptomatic improvement to R0 resection (P =.52). Conclusion Patients with recurrent ACC can benefit from operative intervention with improvement in survival and symptoms. Patients with a disease-free interval >6 months and complete resection are likely to benefit from resection of the recurrence, but the near universal improvement in symptoms may expand the criteria for operation in recurrent ACC.
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