Introduction: Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in Western countries with a poor prognosis (5-year survival rates, 25% in patients after tumor resection with adjuvant treatment; overall, the 5-year survival rate is about 4%; Jemal et al., CA Cancer J Clin, 55:10-30, 2005). Many patients develop a cachectic status during the progression of the disease, and this syndrome accounts for up to 80% of deaths in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Remarkably, there are only a few data available on the impact of cachexia in patients with pancreatic cancer scheduled for tumor resection.
Material and methods: Therefore, in this study, 227 consecutive patients with ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas were documented over an 18-month period regarding the prevalence of cachexia and its influence on perioperative morbidity and mortality with a special interest to postoperative weight gain and survival in a prospectively designed database and followed up.
Results: In 40.5% of the patients, cachexia was already present at the time of operation. The cachectic patients did present in a worse nutritional status, represented by lower protein, albumins, and hemoglobin levels. Despite no significant differences in tumor size, lymph node status, and CA19-9 levels, the resection rate in patients with cachexia was reduced (77.8% vs. 48.9%) due to a higher rate of metastatic disease in patients with cachexia. The morbidity and in-hospital mortality revealed no significant difference. However, patients with and without cachexia lost weight after operation, and the weight gain started not until 6 months after operation. The survival in patients with cachexia was significantly reduced in patients undergoing tumor resection as well as in palliative treated patients.
Conclusion: Cachexia has a significant impact on survival and performance status in palliative patients as well as in patients operated for pancreatic cancer. But tumor-related cachexia is not necessarily dependent on tumor size or load and that metastatic dedifferentiation of the tumor might be a critical step in the development of tumor-associated cachexia.