Pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) for malabsorption in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer

BMJ Support Palliat Care. 2016 Mar;6(1):75-9. doi: 10.1136/bmjspcare-2014-000694. Epub 2014 Aug 27.


Purpose: The diagnosis of metastatic pancreatic cancer (PC) carries a poor prognosis. PC is associated with weight loss and malabsorption in high rates secondary to pancreatic exocrine insufficiency. UK and USA guidelines exist recommending the empiric use of pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) for quality of life in these patients. The aim of this study is to review the use of PERT in patients with metastatic PC referred to a specialist palliative care service.

Methods: Retrospective observational study of patients referred to the service between January 2010 and July 2012 with a diagnosis of PC. Information about PERT use, tumour site and frequency of symptoms was collected.

Results: 129 patients were referred, with a higher number in the eighth decade. Only 21% of this study group were prescribed PERT. Over 70% of patients had symptoms that could be attributable to malabsorption, mainly abdominal pain. Other symptoms such as bloating, wind and steatorrhoea were also common.

Conclusions: Guidelines recommending empiric treatment of PERT in patients with metastatic PC are not currently being utilised.

Keywords: Pharmacology; Supportive care.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Enzyme Replacement Therapy
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency / complications*
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / secondary
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome