PurposeWe tested the hypothesis that high plasma YKL-40 and IL-6 associate with pancreatic cancer and short overall survival.Patients and MethodsIn all, 559 patients with pancreatic cancer from prospective biomarker studies from Denmark (n = 448) and Germany (n = 111) were studied. Plasma YKL-40 and IL-6 were determined by ELISAs and serum CA 19.9 by chemiluminescent immunometric assay.ResultsOdds ratios (ORs) for prediction of pancreatic cancer were significant for all biomarkers, with CA 19.9 having the highest AUC (CA 19.9: OR = 2.28, 95% CI 1.97 to 2.68, p<0.0001, AUC = 0.94; YKL-40: OR = 4.50, 3.99 to 5.08, p<0.0001, AUC = 0.87; IL-6: OR = 3.68, 3.08 to 4.44, p<0.0001, AUC = 0.87). Multivariate Cox analysis (YKL-40, IL-6, CA 19.9, age, stage, gender) in patients operated on showed that high preoperative IL-6 and CA 19.9 (dichotomized according to normal values) were independently associated with short overall survival (CA 19.9: HR = 2.51, 1.22–5.15, p = 0.013; IL-6: HR = 2.03, 1.11 to 3.70, p = 0.021). Multivariate Cox analysis of non-operable patients (Stage IIB-IV) showed that high pre-treatment levels of each biomarker were independently associated with short overall survival (YKL-40: HR = 1.30, 1.03 to 1.64, p = 0.029; IL-6: HR = 1.71, 1.33 to 2.20, p<0.0001; CA 19.9: HR = 1.54, 1.06 to 2.24, p = 0.022). Patients with preoperative elevation of both IL-6 and CA 19.9 had shorter overall survival (p<0.005) compared to patients with normal levels of both biomarkers (45% vs. 92% alive after 12 months).ConclusionsPlasma YKL-40 and IL-6 had less diagnostic impact than CA 19.9. Combination of pretreatment YKL-40, IL-6, and CA 19.9 may have clinical value to identify pancreatic cancer patients with the poorest prognosis.