Inherited pancreatic cancer: surveillance and treatment strategies for affected families

Pancreatology. 2001;1(5):477-85. doi: 10.1159/000055851.


Background: Nearly 10% of pancreatic cancers are hereditary in origin, and in some individuals, the risk of pancreatic cancer approaches 50%. A number of defined syndromes can predispose families to pancreatic cancer, although many of the mechanisms that result in familial pancreatic cancers are unknown. This article reviews current knowledge regarding familial pancreatic cancers and highlights the rationale for screening and surveillance. Methods for screening and surveillance of these high-risk individuals are described that allow the detection of pancreatic dysplasia, the precursor to pancreatic cancer. We also describe a single-center experience with the management and surveillance of familial pancreatic cancer kindreds.

Methods: Thirty-five patients from 13 familial pancreatic cancer kindreds underwent screening and/or surveillance. Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is the initial test of choice. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is reserved for symptomatic individuals or to investigate abnormal findings on EUS. In the proper clinical setting, patients with abnormal findings on both EUS and ERCP are candidates for total pancreatectomy.

Results: Twelve of 35 patients were noted to have abnormal findings on EUS and ERCP. All of these individuals underwent pancreatectomy, 10 total and 2 partial. The patients who underwent partial pancreatectomy are currently awaiting resection of the pancreatic remnant. Histopathologic examination of all 12 specimens demonstrated pancreatic dysplasia (the precursor lesion to pancreatic cancer). These specimens had no evidence of pancreatic cancer; nor were any of the resected pancreata normal. Follow-up of the 35 high-risk patients at present varies from 1 to 48 months, and none of the patients under surveillance have developed pancreatic cancer.

Conclusion: The screening and surveillance of high-risk members of familial pancreatic cancer kindreds using EUS and ERCP is an effective method for identifying individuals with pancreatic dysplasia prior to the onset of invasive pancreatic cancer. The surveillance needs to be performed by a team of specialists who have experience in dealing with pancreatic cancer and its precursors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Radiography
  • Risk Assessment
  • Ultrasonography
  • Washington