Note: Some citations in the text of this section are followed by a level of evidence. The PDQ editorial boards use a formal ranking system to help the reader judge the strength of evidence linked to the reported results of a therapeutic strategy. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Levels of Evidence for more information.)
The survival rate of patients with any stage of pancreatic exocrine cancer is poor. Clinical trials are appropriate alternatives for treatment of patients with any stage of disease and should be considered prior to selecting palliative approaches. To provide optimal palliation, determination of resectability must be made. Staging studies for resectability include helical computed tomographic scan, magnetic resonance imaging scan, and endoscopic ultrasound. The introduction of minimally invasive techniques, such as laparoscopy and laparoscopic ultrasound, may decrease the use of laparotomy.[1,2] Surgical resection remains the primary modality when feasible since, on occasion, resection can lead to long-term survival and provides effective palliation.[3,4,5][Level of evidence: 3iA] The role of postoperative therapy (chemotherapy with or without chemoradiation therapy) in the management of this disease remains controversial because much of the randomized clinical trial data available are statistically underpowered and provide conflicting results.[6,7,8,9,10] Frequently, malabsorption caused by exocrine insufficiency contributes to malnutrition. Attention to pancreatic enzyme replacement can help alleviate this problem. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Nutrition in Cancer Care for more information.) Celiac axis (and intrapleural) nerve blocks can provide highly effective and long-lasting control of pain for some patients. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Pain for more information.)
The pancreas is a gland that produces hormones, such as insulin (which helps control blood sugar levels) and digestive juices.
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), formerly called islet cell tumors, are rare cancers that arise from hormone-producing cells in the pancreas. Only about 2,500 cases of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors are reported in the U.S. each year. Pancreatic NETs make up only about 2% of all pancreatic tumors.
Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
John TG, Greig JD, Carter DC, et al.: Carcinoma of the pancreatic head and periampullary region. Tumor staging with laparoscopy and laparoscopic ultrasonography. Ann Surg 221 (2): 156-64, 1995.
Minnard EA, Conlon KC, Hoos A, et al.: Laparoscopic ultrasound enhances standard laparoscopy in the staging of pancreatic cancer. Ann Surg 228 (2): 182-7, 1998.
Yeo CJ, Cameron JL, Lillemoe KD, et al.: Pancreaticoduodenectomy for cancer of the head of the pancreas. 201 patients. Ann Surg 221 (6): 721-31; discussion 731-3, 1995.
Conlon KC, Klimstra DS, Brennan MF: Long-term survival after curative resection for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Clinicopathologic analysis of 5-year survivors. Ann Surg 223 (3): 273-9, 1996.
Yeo CJ, Abrams RA, Grochow LB, et al.: Pancreaticoduodenectomy for pancreatic adenocarcinoma: postoperative adjuvant chemoradiation improves survival. A prospective, single-institution experience. Ann Surg 225 (5): 621-33; discussion 633-6, 1997.
Further evidence of effective adjuvant combined radiation and chemotherapy following curative resection of pancreatic cancer. Gastrointestinal Tumor Study Group. Cancer 59 (12): 2006-10, 1987.
Kalser MH, Ellenberg SS: Pancreatic cancer. Adjuvant combined radiation and chemotherapy following curative resection. Arch Surg 120 (8): 899-903, 1985.
Klinkenbijl JH, Jeekel J, Sahmoud T, et al.: Adjuvant radiotherapy and 5-fluorouracil after curative resection of cancer of the pancreas and periampullary region: phase III trial of the EORTC gastrointestinal tract cancer cooperative group. Ann Surg 230 (6): 776-82; discussion 782-4, 1999.
Neoptolemos JP, Dunn JA, Stocken DD, et al.: Adjuvant chemoradiotherapy and chemotherapy in resectable pancreatic cancer: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 358 (9293): 1576-85, 2001.
Neoptolemos JP, Stocken DD, Friess H, et al.: A randomized trial of chemoradiotherapy and chemotherapy after resection of pancreatic cancer. N Engl J Med 350 (12): 1200-10, 2004.