While surgery is the most effective treatment for pancreatic cancer, it does not always prevent the cancer from returning, explains William Jarnagin, Chief of Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Hepatopancreatobiliary Service. Doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering are studying the effectiveness of neoadjuvant therapy, in which a patient is treated with a combination of chemotherapy drugs or radiation before surgery to shrink tumors that are located near major blood vessels and to prevent a tumor from spreading.
The Whipple procedure is the most common operation used to remove tumors in the head (right side) of the pancreas. In this operation, a surgeon removes the head of the pancreas, the duodenum, the lower bile duct, and sometimes part of stomach. Gastroenterologist Mark Schattner reports that endoscopic techniques offer a minimally invasive way to manage many postsurgical complications.
Chemotherapy is usually given after surgery to prevent the cancer from returning. Doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering are investigating which combinations of chemotherapy drugs are most effective and have fewer side effects. Radiation is sometimes given to eliminate any cancer cells that may remain after surgery.