Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Cancer

Houston Methodist Pancreatic Cancer Program Outcomes Among World's Best

Feb. 20, 2024 - Eden McCleskey

At Houston Methodist, active research is underway to explore novel treatments for pancreatic cancer, one of the most challenging cancers to treat. An experienced team of gastroenterologists, medical, radiation and surgical oncologists collaborates with oncology researchers to study new diagnostic modalities to expedite diagnosis and advance treatment in the future.

All patients at Houston Methodist undergo multidisciplinary evaluation and care with therapeutic plans based on weekly tumor board meetings, a collaboration between the Underwood Center and the Neal Cancer Center.

For locally advanced cancer, patients may undergo neoadjuvant therapy to downstage the tumor, or surgeons may perform complex resection and vascular reconstruction. Patients diagnosed with advanced and metastatic tumors receive tumor mutational testing to inform treatment strategies.+

Our interventional endoscopy team maintains a high success rate for obtaining endoscopic ultrasound-guided biopsies in patients with pancreas mass lesions.

Techniques include using endoscopic ultrasound-guided gastric stent placement in gastric bypass patients for performing biopsy from pancreatic mass lesions; using a new tool called the SpyGlass™ cholangioscopy to better visualize the bile ducts; and conducting mutational testing of pancreatic cyst fluid aspirates.

Various genetic mutations predispose patients to a higher risk for pancreatic cancer, including STK11/LKB1, CDKN2A, BRCA-1, BRCA-2, PALB2, ATM, MLH1, MSH2 and MSH6. We offer pancreatic cancer screening after extensive discussion of pros and cons with patients.

Houston Methodist is a high-volume center with proven surgical outcomes — even with a higher risk patient population. Studies show that high-volume pancreatic surgery centers are best suited to care for patients with pancreatic cancer, as evidenced by the superior outcomes for the program's seven experienced pancreatic surgeons.

Innovative therapies include minimally invasive and robotic surgical techniques, novel chemotherapy agents and immunotherapy.

Additionally, Houston Methodist supports numerous cancer-specific clinical trials, potentially offering patients access to promising treatments that aren't available anywhere else.

Clinical differentiators:

  • Robust lineup of surgical options including robotic and traditional pancreatic duodenectomy (Whipple) and minimally invasive pancreatectomies
  • Advanced imaging and endoscopic techniques to help detect and evaluate pancreatic cancer, with the ability to biopsy and analyze lesions of concern in detail
  • Multidisciplinary approach of neoadjuvant, surgical and adjuvant therapies resulting in one of the lowest mortality rates in the country

Research initiatives:

  • Reviewing molecular analysis of cystic fluid to differentiate benign cystic lesions from cystic lesions with malignant potential
  • Identifying the role of cholangioscopy-directed biopsies versus the use of large-caliber cytology brushes in obtaining a diagnosis in technically challenging hilar bile duct strictures — a significant portion of Houston Methodist's patient population
  • Developing CAR T-cells against pancreatic cancer
  • Leading a clinical trial of immunotherapy combined with chemotherapy

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GI Surgery Cancer Research