Introduction: Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an aggressive disease with poor outcomes. One of the reasons for the dismal prognosis resides in its impressive ability to alter the nutritional status of patients who develop malnutrition, cachexia, anorexia, and sarcopenia in most cases. The ideal way to measure such changes in PDAC patients, in order to readily identify them and avoid complications or discontinuations of treatment is a relatively unexplored area. In addition, most PDAC patients experience pancreatic exocrine insufficiency (PEI) that contributes to the complex puzzle of malnutrition and that can be treated with Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy (PERT).
Areas covered: We review current knowledge on the impact of nutritional status on both surgical and medical treatments for PDAC, reporting available data on the causes of malnutrition, characteristics, and advantages of different tools to investigate nutritional status and possible strategies to improve patient outcomes.
Expert opinion: All PDAC patients should receive a careful nutritional assessment at diagnosis, and this should be repeated alongside their treatment path. Screening tools and biochemical variables or scores are associated with prognosis, but bioimpedance vector analysis (BIVA) and radiological assessment of body composition seem more accurate in predicting clinical outcomes and postoperative complications.
Keywords: Pancreatic cancer; cachexia; chemotherapy; malnutrition; pancreatic exocrine insufficiency; sarcopenia; surgery; survival.