For pancreatic cancer patients with inoperable tumors, a new approach is in sight for people which may extend their lives. In a recent study, doctors were able to add more than two years to the lives of patients with complex inoperable pancreatic cancer thanks to a new surgical procedure.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United Sates. Several of those diagnosed losetheir battle within a few years. It is estimated by the National Cancer Institute 37,390 men and women will lose their battle with pancreatic cancer this year alone, however a new approach is in sight for people with inoperable complex pancreatic cancer.

Investigators at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston reported on 88 patients whose cancerous tumors were deemed inoperable after an initial surgical attempt failed. Out of the 88 participants, 50 of them came from academic centers, 25 from community hospitals, and 13 from international centers. 66 of those who completed a multidisciplinary treatment regimen had a successful tumor removal. Patients in this study lived approximately 30 months longer after tumor removal, which equals to nearly three times longer than the 11 months for patients who never has their tumor surgically removed.

Participants in this study included high-risk patients who were referred to MD Anderson between the years of 1990 and 2010. Several of the participants were able to successfully have their tumor removed. Lead study author Jason B. Fleming, MD, FACS, stated this was the largest study involving only those who had failed tumor removal prior to this case study.

According to Dr. Fleming the key to screening the patients for treatment and determining the stage of cancer is through radiographic imaging and interpretation of computed tomography (CT) scans. Dr. Fleming explains involving radiologists, is helpful with giving the surgeon a clean idea of the tumor’s location and vessels that are involved before starting the operation.

At MD Anderson the protocol comprises a scoring system with a structured documentation for the radiologist to precisely assess the extent of tumor-vessel involvement. Dr. Fleming states with an effective interpretation there is a higher chance of being able to predict the involvement of the vessels. About 46 percent of the participants required a form of vascular resection. 

The study was published in the  Journal of the American College of Surgeons.