Pancreatic head vs pancreatic body/tail cancer: Are they different?

Kai Sun, Charisma Mylavarapu, Aubrey Crenshaw, Yuqi Zhang, Enshuo Hsu, Jiaqiong Xu, Marilyn Niravath, Stephen L Jones, Adriana Ordonez, Maen Abdelrahim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The impact of pancreatic tumor location on patient survival has been studied in large national data-based analyses which yielded controversial results.

AIM: To explore if pancreatic head cancer (PHC) and pancreatic body/tail cancer (PBTC) have different overall survival (OS), molecular signature and response to chemotherapy.

METHODS: We retrospectively queried patient records from July 2016 to June 2020 in our institution. Patient demographics, cancer stage on diagnosis, tumor location, somatic mutations, treatment, and survival are recorded and analyzed. A test is considered statistically significant if the P value was < 0.05.

RESULTS: We reviewed 101 patients with complete records, among which 67 (66.34%) were PHC and 34 (33.66%) were PBTC. More PHC were diagnosed at younger age [61.49 vs 68.97, P = 0.010], earlier stages (P = 0.006) and underwent surgical resection (P = 0.025). There were no significant differences among all mutations and pathways studied except for TP53 mutations (37.0% in PHC vs 70.0% in PBTC, P = 0.03). OS was not statistically different between PHC and PBTC (P = 0.636) in the overall population and in subgroups according to surgical resection status or stages. In terms of response to chemotherapy, chemotherapy regimens (FOLFIRINOX-based vs gemcitabine-based) didn't impact disease free interval in those who had surgical resection in either PHC (P = 0.546) or PBTC (P = 0.654), or the duration of response to first line palliative treatment in those with advanced disease in PHC (P = 0.915) or PBTC (P = 0.524).

CONCLUSION: Even though PHC and PBTC have similar poor OS and response to chemotherapy, the different presentations and molecular profiles indicate they are different diseases. Utilization of molecular profiling to develop targeted therapy for individualization of treatment is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)716-723
Number of pages8
JournalWorld journal of gastrointestinal oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 15 2022


  • Molecular profiling
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Response to chemotherapy
  • Survival
  • Tumor location

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Gastroenterology


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