Extent of lymphadenectomy in the resection of pancreatic cancer. Analysis of the existing evidence.


Pancreaticoduodenectomy is considered the standard procedure for the surgical treatment of the pancreatic head cancer. However, the extent of lymph node clearance associated to the procedure is still largely debated. Arguments in favour of an extended lymphadenectomy are the regular progression of lymph node invasion, without skip metastases, and the removal of the extrapancreatic neural plexus that is invaded in 52-72% of patients. Arguments against the extended lymphadenectomy are the failure of extended lymphadenectomy to improve survival in other cancers, and the severe diarrhoea that follows the skeletonisation of the superior mesenteric artery. After Ishikawa's paper, several retrospective studies supported a longer survival after an extended than after a standard lymphadenectomy, but as much retrospective studies failed to demonstrate any difference. Only three prospective randomised controlled trials have been performed so far. Unfortunately all are underpowered, and the substantial differences in the surgical procedures, in the adjuvant treatment, and in the length of follow-up make the comparison impossible. Only one study reports a significantly longer survival for lymph node positive patients who underwent an extended lymphadenectomy, but adjuvant treatment was not performed. Furthermore, the difference was of minimal clinical impact. At least two adequately powered prospective Randomised Controlled Trials including a true extended lymphadenectomy, and a standardised adjuvant treatment, would be required to answer the question. Unfortunately, we have not yet a standardised adjuvant (or neoadjuvant) treatment, and we do not know the impact of such treatment on the expected statistical difference in the survival after a standard or extended lymphadenectomy. The lot of work required to perform such trials probably doesn't worth the expected results.

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@article{Pedrazzoli2005ExtentOL, title={Extent of lymphadenectomy in the resection of pancreatic cancer. Analysis of the existing evidence.}, author={Sergio Pedrazzoli and Claudio Pasquali and Cosimo Sperti}, journal={Roczniki Akademii Medycznej w Białymstoku}, year={2005}, volume={50}, pages={85-90} }