Long-term pancreatic surveillance of high-risk patients identified cancers while they were still resectable, and 85% of such patients remained alive 3 years after diagnosis, researchers reported.

An artist's rendering of a body, with the pancreas shown in red. iStock/ThinkStock

“Among individuals undergoing pancreatic surveillance, specific detectable lesions with worrisome features predicted neoplastic progression. The short-term outcomes of patients with screening-detected PDACs [pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas] improved,” wrote Marcia Irene Canto, MD, MHS, of the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, together with her associates in the September issue of Gastroenterology.

The lifetime risk of PDAC is about 1.5%, the researchers noted. Consequently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force does not recommend pancreatic surveillance at a population level. However, pancreatic screening is being evaluated for individuals who are at significantly elevated risk of PDAC, including those with at least two first-degree relatives with PDAC or who have germline mutations in BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2, PRSS1 (hereditary pancreatitis), CDKN2A, MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2 (Lynch syndrome), or STK11 (Peutz-Jeghers syndrome).

For the study, Dr. Canto and her associates analyzed data from 354 such high-risk individuals enrolled in the CAPS (Cancer of the Pancreas Screening) cohort studies, which were conducted at tertiary care academic centers during 1998-2014. All participants underwent endoscopic ultrasound at baseline, followed by surveillance with endoscopic ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, or some combination of these modalities. Patients who developed pancreatic cancer or high-grade dysplasia were offered surgery.

In all, 68 patients (19%) developed pancreatic lesions with worrisome features, such as solid masses, multiple cysts, mural nodules, thickened or enhancing walls, cysts exceeding 3 cm in size or that grew more than 4 mm annually, a greater than 5-mm dilation of the main pancreatic duct, or an abrupt change in duct caliber. The lesions developed over a median of 13.1 months (interquartile range, 0.2-52 months).

A total of 7% of patients had neoplastic progression, including 14 cases of PDAC and 10 cases of high-grade dysplasia. Median times from baseline to detection of PDAC were 4.8 years overall (IQR, 1.6-6.9 years), 1.7 years (IQR, 0.5-4.4 years) among patients aged at least 60 years at baseline, and 5.2 years among younger patients (IQR, 0.4-8 years). Patients developed PDAC at a median of 67 years old.

Among 10 PDACs detected by surveillance, 9 were resectable. Three patients subsequently died of PDAC, while one patient died of complications of gastric cancer surgery. However, 85% of patients survived for at least 3 years after surgical resection of PDAC. The remaining four cases of PDAC were detected outside surveillance or after patients stopped surveillance.

The 10 cases of high-grade dysplasia consisted of intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm with high-grade dysplasia or high-grade pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia. Patients whose PDAC or high-grade dysplasia was detected by surveillance survived a median of 5.3 years, while patients whose surveillance was late or stopped and who subsequently developed neoplasia survived a median of only 1.4 years after diagnosis (P less than .0001).

Funders included the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, the John and Peter Hooven Memorial Endowment, Hugh and Rachel Victor, and ChiRhoClin. Dr. Canto had no disclosures. Three coinvestigators disclosed royalties for licensing of PALB2 as a pancreatic cancer susceptibility gene.

SOURCE: Canto MI et al. Gastroenterology. 2018 May 24. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2018.05.035