Staff Spotlights

Diagnosing Pancreatic Cancer Earlier

by Columbia Surgery on November 7, 2014

The following interview was conducted with Dr. John A. Chabot, Chief, Division of GI & Endocrine Surgery, Director, Pancreas Center.

There are situations where a pancreatic specialist might be able to diagnose people much earlier than they are currently diagnosed. One thing we know, for example, that is missed frequently is new onset diabetes in a person who has no reason to develop diabetes. This might be the earliest indication that people have pancreatic cancer.

We know that people who develop pancreatitis, which is a very common disease, who don’t have an explanation for their pancreatitis should not just be labeled “pancreatitis of unknown cause.” They need to come to a center like ours– where true expertise exists– to get that diagnosis made early.

It takes incredibly technologically advanced investigation to diagnose pancreatic cancer early. It takes people who are skilled, deploying those tools to diagnose pancreatic cancer early. But, if you have a family history, if you have pancreatitis that’s unexplained, or you have new onset diabetes and you have no family history and you are not obese, those are situations where I urge you to ask the question of your doctor, “Do you think I should go to a pancreatic expert center to have this investigated?”

It’s not just going and getting a regular MRI, it’s not just going and getting a CAT scan; it’s having the people who are truly experts in these processes interpret all of the studies and use the tools that we have to come to early diagnosis.

Ultimately, the way we beat pancreatic cancer is early diagnosis and early intervention.

**Please join us for our Annual Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day on Saturday, November 8th from 1-3 PM at the Myrna L. Daniels Auditorium in the Vivian and Seymour Milstein Family Heart Center**


John Chabot, MD, FACS (Profile)

Chief, Division of GI/Endocrine Surgery and Executive Director, Pancreas Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center



NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia is the first center in the New York metropolitan area to offer autologous islet cell transplantation. Patients who need a total pancreatectomy for chronic pancreatitis or other benign diseases may be eligible for this procedure to prevent type 1 diabetes.

Every year, about 87,000 people in the U.S. receive surgical treatment for pancreatitis. This condition, inflammation of the pancreas, can be very painful – so painful, in fact that relief may only be found when the entire pancreas is removed (total pancreatectomy). This surgery relieves patients’ pain in 90% of cases, but that relief comes at a price: without a pancreas to produce insulin, such patients are left completely diabetic. This is a difficult-to-treat form of diabetes also known as brittle diabetes.

For several decades, physicians and researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital have been researching ways to treat type 1 diabetes by transplanting insulin-producing islet cells extracted from donor pancreata, a process known as allogeneic islet cell transplantation. This procedure has been adapted for use in certain patients undergoing pancreatic surgery. In this procedure, called autologous islet cell transplantation, the patient’s islet cells are extracted from the pancreas, specially processed, and reinfused into his or her liver. Because the infused islet cells are taken from the patient’s own pancreas, no immunosuppressant therapy is needed, says Beth Schrope, MD, PhD, FACS, who specializes in the treatment of pancreatitis at the Pancreas Center.

When autologous islet transplantation is successful, the reinfused cells produce insulin, acting like a backup pancreas to regulate blood sugar. According to data available so far, about one third of patients require no insulin therapy after autologous islet transplantation. About one third of patients require some insulin after the procedure, and the procedure is unsuccessful in about one third. “It is important to remember that the goal of pancreatectomy is to relieve pain, however,” says Dr. Schrope. “Returning to normal activities and living without pain is a tremendous improvement in patients’ quality of life. If the islet transplantation can prevent the onset of diabetes, that is an added bonus.”

**Please join us for our Annual Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day on Saturday, November 8th from 1-3 PM at the Myrna L. Daniels Auditorium in the Vivian and Seymour Milstein Family Heart Center**


Beth A. Schrope, MD, PhD, FACS (Profile)

Assistant Professor of Surgery & Attending Surgeon
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons



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