Radiologically occult metastatic pancreatic cancer: how can we avoid unbeneficial resection?

  • Atsushi Oba
  • Yosuke InoueEmail author
  • Yoshihiro Ono
  • Shoichi Irie
  • Takafumi Sato
  • Yoshihiro Mise
  • Hiromichi Ito
  • Yu Takahashi
  • Akio Saiura
Original Article



This study aimed to clarify the key factors for minimizing unsuitable surgical interventions for patients with radiologically occult metastatic pancreatic cancer (ROMPC), defined as a distant metastasis detected during surgery or within 6 months after resection.


This study involved 502 patients planned to undergo curative resection for pancreatic cancer between 2008 and 2015. Patients were divided into ROMPC and non-ROMPC groups and evaluated preoperative factors associated with ROMPC.


Overall survival (OS) was significantly lower in the ROMPC group (n = 145) than the non-ROMPC group (n = 357, median survival time [MST] 10.8 vs. 35.3 months, P < 0.001). In the ROMPC group, OS tended to be worse for patients who had pancreatectomies (n = 84) than those who did not (n = 61, MST 10.1 vs. 13.2 months, P = 0.057), and the next chemotherapy started significantly later in patients who had pancreatectomies (P < 0.001). Moreover, OS was significantly lower for patients with (n = 82) than without (n = 63) liver metastases (MST 9.7 vs. 13.0 months, respectively, P = 0.020). The best indicator for patients at higher risk of ROMPC was a combination of carbohydrate antigen 19-9 concentration ≥ 300 U/ml and tumor size ≥ 30 mm.


In the ROMPC group, patients who underwent pancreatectomy had a poorer prognosis than patients not undergoing pancreatectomy. Given that the liver was the most frequent distant metastatic site for ROMPC and had the poorest prognosis, establishing a strategy featuring new imaging modalities to detect radiologically occult liver metastases is necessary.


Pancreatic cancer Distant metastasis Liver metastasis Staging laparoscopy CA19-9 Occult metastasis, early recurrence 


Authors’ contributions

Study conception and design: Oba, Inoue, Mise, Takahashi, Saiura. Acquisition of data: Oba, Irie, Sato, Ono, Inoue. Analysis and interpretation of data: Oba, Inoue, Saiura. Drafting of manuscript: Oba, Inoue, Ito. Critical revision: Inoue, Takahashi, Saiura. Final approval: Oba, Inoue, Ono, Irie, Sato, Mise, Ito, Takahashi, Saiura.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Research involving human participants

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

The present retrospective study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the Cancer Institute Hospital of the Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research, with a waiver of the written informed consent from all patients concerned.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Atsushi Oba
    • 1
  • Yosuke Inoue
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yoshihiro Ono
    • 1
  • Shoichi Irie
    • 1
    • 2
  • Takafumi Sato
    • 1
  • Yoshihiro Mise
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hiromichi Ito
    • 1
  • Yu Takahashi
    • 1
  • Akio Saiura
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Hepatobiliary Pancreatic SurgeryCancer Institute Hospital, Japanese Foundation for Cancer ResearchTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Department of Hepatobiliary-Pancreatic SurgeryJuntendo University School of MedicineTokyoJapan

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