Patterns of recurrence after curative resection of pancreatic cancer, based on autopsy findings

J Gastrointest Surg. 2006 Apr;10(4):511-8. doi: 10.1016/j.gassur.2005.09.016.


The autopsy findings of patients who died of recurrence after curative resection of pancreatic cancer may afford a reliable guide to increase long-term survival after surgery. Recurrence patterns were analyzed for 27 autopsied patients who had undergone potentially curative resection of pancreatic cancer. The pattern of recurrence was classified as follows: (1) local recurrence, (2) hepatic metastasis, (3) peritoneal dissemination, (4) para-aortic lymph node metastasis, and (5) distant metastasis not including hepatic metastasis, peritoneal dissemination, and para-aortic lymph node metastasis. Of the 27 autopsied patients, recurrence was confirmed for 22 of 24 patients, except for three who died of early postoperative complications. Eighteen (75%) of the 24 patients had local recurrence, 12 (50%) had hepatic metastasis, and 11 (46%) had both. For four patients, local recurrence confirmed by autopsy was undetectable by computed tomography, because the recurrent lesions had infiltrated without forming a tumor mass. Peritoneal dissemination, para-aortic lymph node metastasis, and distant metastasis were found for eight (33%), five (21%), and 18 (75%) of the cases, respectively. Twenty patients died of cancer, but local recurrence was judged to be the direct cause of death of only four. Local recurrence frequently occurs, but is rarely a direct cause of death, and most patients died of metastatic disease. Therefore, treatment that focuses on local control cannot improve the survival of patients with resectable pancreatic cancer, and thus, treatment regimens that are effective against systemic metastasis are needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autopsy
  • Cause of Death
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / pathology
  • Pancreatectomy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / secondary
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Survival Rate