Spontaneous regression of pancreatic cancer: real or a misdiagnosis?

World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Jun 21;18(23):2902-8. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v18.i23.2902.


Spontaneous tumor regression has been subject of numerous studies and speculations for many years. This phenomenon is exceptional, but well reported, in some types of tumors, but not in pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer has the worst five-year survival rate of any cancer. Despite numerous molecular studies and clinical approaches, using several mouse models, this cancer responds poorly to the existing chemotherapeutic agents and progress on treatment remains elusive. Although pancreatic cancer tumors seldom undergo spontaneous regression, and some authors take that with skepticism, there are some cases reported in the literature. However, the variability in the description of the reports and technical details could make this process susceptible to misdiagnosis. Distinguishing between different types of pancreatic carcinoma should be taken with caution as they have wide differences in malignant potential. Diseases such as pancreatic benign tumors, insulinomas, or autoimmune pancreatitis could be responsible for this misdiagnosis as a pancreatic cancer. Here we review different cases reported, their clinical characteristics, and possible mechanisms leading to spontaneous regression of pancreatic cancer. We also discuss the possibilities of misdiagnosis.

Keywords: Autoimmune pancreatitis; Insulinoma; Pancreatic cancer; Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; Spo-ntaneous regression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / diagnosis
  • Diagnostic Errors*
  • Humans
  • Insulinoma / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatitis / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatitis / immunology
  • Remission, Spontaneous*