Objective: To evaluate clinical parameters, presurgical diagnostic tests, histologic findings, and the presence of K-ras oncogene mutations in cystic tumors of the pancreas to determine which best predict malignancy.
Summary background data: Because presurgical, intraoperative, and final pathologic differentiation is difficult in cystic tumors of the pancreas, it would be a major benefit to identify markers that accurately predict malignancy in these rare tumors. The role of K-ras oncogene mutations as an indicator of malignancy has not been determined in these tumors.
Methods: Nineteen patients with cystic tumors of the pancreas were evaluated, including K-ras mutation analysis based on polymerase chain reaction and restriction digestion assays and direct DNA sequencing, to screen for parameters that accurately predict malignancy.
Results: All malignant cystic pancreatic tumors (five cystadenocarcinomas and three mucin-producing adenocarcinomas) harbored K-ras mutations at codon 12 or 13. K-ras mutations were also detected in the percutaneous fine-needle aspirates of two of these patients. In contrast, none of nine benign cystadenomas or the solid-papillary neoplasm had K-ras mutations. None of the patients with a benign tumor carrying K-ras wild-type sequences developed recurrent disease after a mean follow-up of 50 months. Seven of the 8 malignant cystic pancreatic tumors, but none of the 11 benign tumors, showed dilatation of the main pancreatic duct on computed tomography or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography.
Conclusions: K-ras mutation analysis seems to be a powerful tool to determine the malignant potential of cystic pancreatic tumors before and after surgery. Dilatation of the main pancreatic duct on computed tomography or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography is highly suggestive for malignancy in these rare tumors.