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Study Finds Less-invasive Pancreatic Cancer Surgery Is Safe, Efficient

Patients with pancreatic cancer who undergo minimally invasive surgery have similar outcomes to those who have open surgery, according to study results set to be presented June 5 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago. In the study, 117 people with the most common form of pancreatic cancer were assigned to minimally invasive distal pancreatectomy with splenectomy, while 114 were assigned to open distal pancreatectomy. Results showed 73% of those who had the minimally invasive procedure had no sign of residual tumor compared with 69% of those who had open surgery. Outcomes also were similar between the two groups for disease-free and overall survival, number of lymph nodes removed, recurrence and surgical complications. The results show the less-invasive option is “a safe, valid, efficient alternative” to open surgery, Mohammed Abu Hilal, director of the Department of Surgery at the Istituto Ospedaliero Fondazione Poliambulanza in Brescia, Italy, and the study’s lead author, told MedPage Today. “[Minimally invasive surgery] may provide benefits like faster recovery time and less infection risk, without increasing cancer risk,” said Jennifer Tseng, a surgical oncologist at Boston Medical Center, who was not involved in the study.

Oncologists Start Rationing Chemotherapy as Drug Shortages Continue

As widespread drug shortages persist, oncologists have been forced to ration certain chemotherapies or give patients other treatments that come with more potential side effects. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration reported current shortages of 14 cancer drugs, including carboplatin, a chemotherapy used as first-line treatment for head and neck, breast, lung and ovarian cancers, among others. “I’ve been doing this for 20-plus years. This is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Lucio Gordan, a medical oncologist and president of the Florida Cancer Specialists and Research Institute in Gainesville, told NBC News. The carboplatin shortage stems from quality control issues at a plant in India that have slowed production, as well as a pharmaceutical industry that sees little profit from producing these drugs and has little incentive to create backup plans, according to USA Today. Many cancer clinics have reported they are now adjusting patients’ dosages or therapies due to the shortages. In some cases, patients are continuing to receive the same drug but at a lower dosage, while in others, oncologists are moving them to alternative drugs that may not be as effective or may have more toxicity. “Cancer is life changing as it is, but you expect as a patient that you’re going to walk into an office and be given the very best that exists,” Eleonora Teplinsky, a breast and gynecologic medical oncologist at Valley Health System in Paramus, New Jersey, told NBC News. “And right now, we don’t have the very best to give in certain cancers.”

Smoking, Vaping Linked to Worse Cancer-related Symptoms

Smoking cigarettes after a cancer diagnosis can exacerbate a patient’s symptoms and negatively impact their quality of life, according to results of a study published last week in the journal Cancer. Researchers analyzed data from 1,409 cancer survivors, 14.21% of whom reported currently smoking and 2.88% of whom reported vaping. Researchers found smoking after a cancer diagnosis was associated with greater fatigue, pain and emotional problems, as well as worse quality of life compared with former and never smoking. Vaping after diagnosis also was linked to greater fatigue, pain and emotional problems, but there was no association with quality of life. The authors noted cancer patients who smoke should take advantage of tobacco-cessation programs. “Knowing that reducing smoking could potentially provide symptom relief and improve their quality of life may be especially compelling to cancer survivors who are considering changing their smoking habits,” Sarah N. Price, the study’s lead author and a cancer prevention and control postdoctoral fellow at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, told Healio.

Thomas Celona is the associate editor for Cancer Today.