Unlike some other forms of cancer, pancreatic cancer is often detected only in advanced stages, making it one of the most deadly forms of cancer overall. Surgical removal of tumors is possible in only 10% to 20% of people. Chemotherapy is not nearly as beneficial as doctors would hope, and the risk of recurrence after treatment is high. Given these conditions, researchers are working hard to develop alternative therapies that extend people's lives past the average survival time, 20 months after diagnosis.
For locally advanced pancreatic cancer without evidence of distant metastasis the treatment of choice is curative surgical resection followed by chemotherapy plus or minus radiation. Even patients with invasion of the cancer into the surrounding vasculature, surgeons at Columbia University have been successful at surgical resection with comparable postoperative complications as those tumors without vascular invasion. Interdisciplinary treatment strategy involving medical oncologists, interventional gastroenterologists, radiologists, radiation oncologists and surgeons with expertise in pancreatic cancer should share in the coordination of care for patients with pancreatic cancer.