Palliative therapy in pancreatic cancer—interventional treatment with radiofrequency ablation/irreversible electroporation

Salvatore Paiella, Matteo De Pastena, Mirko D’Onofrio, Stefano Francesco Crinò, Teresa Lucia Pan, Riccardo De Robertis, Giovanni Elio, Enrico Martone, Claudio Bassi, Roberto Salvia


Pancreatic cancer (PC) is a solid tumor with still a dismal prognosis. Diagnosis is usually late, when the disease is metastatic or locally advanced (LAPC). Only 20% of PC are amenable to surgery at the time of diagnosis and the vast majority of them, despite radically resected will unavoidably recur. The treatment of LAPC is a challenge. Current guidelines suggest to adopt systemic therapies upfront, based on multi-drugs chemotherapy regimens. However, the vast majority of patients will never experience conversion to surgical exploration and radical resection. Thus, there a large subgroup of LAPC patients where the only therapeutic chance is to offer palliative treatments, such as interventional ablative treatments, in order to obtain a cytoreduction of the tumor, trying to delay its growth and spread. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and irreversible electroporation (IRE) demonstrated to be safe and effective in obtaining a local control of the disease with some promising oncological results in terms of overall survival (OS). However, they should be adopted as a treatment strategy to adopt in parallel with other systemic therapies, within multidisciplinary choices. They are not free from complications, even serious, thus they should applied only in specialized centers of pancreatology. This review depicts the state of the art of the two techniques.