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.