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Recurrent Pancreatic Cancer

When pancreatic cancer has returned following initial treatment, it is referred to as recurrent or relapsed cancer. Recurrent pancreatic cancer is very difficult to treat and treatment options are limited.

Historically, patients with recurrent pancreatic cancer have been considered incurable and rarely survived more than one year. However, with newer treatments, some patients are deriving benefit and treatment is also focused on reducing pain and maintaining nutrition and quality of life. Pain relief can be achieved by destroying the nerves that provide sensation in the area around the pancreas. This is usually performed by injection of alcohol or other chemicals either through the skin or during an open abdominal operation.

Systemic Therapy: Precision Cancer Medicines, Chemotherapy, and Immunotherapy

Systemic therapy is treatment directed at destroying cancer cells throughout the body. Systemic therapy may include chemotherapy, precision cancer medicines, immunotherapy or a combination of these therapies.

Cancer chemotherapy may consist of single drugs or combinations of drugs and can be administered through a vein or delivered orally in the form of a pill. Combinations of chemotherapy drugs that have not previously been used to treat the cancer are typically used for treatment of recurrent disease.  In addition to chemotherapy, participation in a clinical trial evaluating new chemotherapy drugs or precision cancer medicines should be considered.

Development of Precision Cancer Medicines:

Research is ongoing to develop new medications that specifically target cancer cells in clinical trials.  These trials typically require a sample of the cancer or liquid biopsy to be available in order to evaluate for biomarkers. Patients should learn about options to participate in these trials prior to surgery in order to ensure that cancer tissue is obtained correctly.1,2,3,4

Next: Surgery for Pancreatic Cancer



1 Pancreatic Cancer Action. Facts and statistics. Accessed February 2019 from




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