Treating Pancreatic Cancer

Virginia Mason gives patients with all types of pancreatic cancer access to our nationally renowned team and to state-of-the-art therapies. Our treatment options include:

Minimally Invasive Procedures for Pancreatic Cancer

Virginia Mason is home to some of the nation's top experts in laparoscopic and endoscopic procedures, where physicians guide instruments or cameras through the body without surgery or a major incision. These minimally invasive approaches mean we can diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer in a way that reduces complications and accelerates recovery.

Our radiologists and gastroenterologists use endoscopic procedures to capture images of cancer cells, remove tissue samples and bring treatment to tumors. We also use endoscopy to insert stents, and to relieve pain by blocking nerves connected to the pancreas.

Chemotherapy and Radiation

Virginia Mason uses the most advanced chemotherapy drugs and radiation techniques. In some cases, these treatments enable us to avoid surgery, which gives more options to patients who aren't strong enough to undergo surgery or have tumors that are inoperable.

Pancreatic Cancer Surgery

Most centers have one or two pancreatic surgeons. Virginia Mason has four, who each perform more than 25 major pancreatic operations a year through the Liver, Pancreas and Biliary Surgical Center of Excellence. Surgeries are performed to remove pancreatic cancer or to make it easier for patients to live with the disease. These procedures include:

  • The Whipple procedure, where surgeons typically remove part of the pancreas, small intestine and stomach. Our team of surgeons performs more than 100 Whipple procedures per year. We also send patients home an average of seven days after the procedure — much faster than the national average of approximately two weeks.
  • Irreversible electrophoresis, which uses ultrasound-guided needles to apply electric pulses to the tumor. This can kill cancer cells in patients with locally advanced cancer.
  • Other advanced procedures such as distal pancreatomy, total pancreatomy, major vascular resection and reconstruction for advanced tumors.

Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Trials

Virginia Mason offers clinical trials of promising new medications for every phase and stage of pancreatic cancer, giving patients access to innovative therapies and gathering knowledge that helps improve treatment.

Benaroya Research Institute (BRI) oversees all clinical research at Virginia Mason, combining the expertise of a world-renowned medical research institute with the remarkable care of Virginia Mason physicians. Learn more about our current pancreatic cancer clinical trials.

Our team has been conducting pancreatic cancer research for more than 30 years, and has done pioneering work that led to better CT imaging, endoscopic procedures and safety protocols. We also developed the Virginia Mason Protocol, a technique for delivering chemotherapy and radiation after surgery that has produced the highest survival rates for pancreatic cancer.

Through the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s (PANCAN) Precision Promise project, we are involved in a number of studies that aim to develop targeted pancreatic cancer therapies. This research includes:

  • Testing peptide receptor and radionuclide therapy, which is a radiation therapy that precisely targets tumors while preserving the healthy tissue around them.
  • Novel drug development in pancreaticobiliary cancer, which includes pinpointing genetic mutations that drive each patient's tumor, and then matching patients with drugs that could disarm those mutations.

We also analyze past outcomes to learn lessons that could improve care. Our team built a database with information from thousands of patients, including data about which procedures have been most effective, and which patients are at the highest risk for complications. Analyzing this data helping us find better ways to treat pancreatic cancer.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment or for more information, please call (206) 341-1652.