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1.  Cachexia and pancreatic cancer: Are there treatment options? 
Cachexia is frequently described in patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and is associated with reduced survival and quality of life. Unfortunately, the therapeutic options of this multi-factorial and complex syndrome are limited. This is due to the fact that, despite extensive preclinical and clinical research, the underlying pathological mechanisms leading to PDAC-associated cachexia are still not fully understood. Furthermore, there is still a lack of consensus on the definition of cachexia, which complicates the standardization of diagnosis and treatment as well as the analysis of the current literature. In order to provide an efficient therapy for cachexia, an early and reliable diagnosis and consistent monitoring is required, which can be challenging especially in obese patients. Although many substances have been tested in clinical and preclinical settings, so far none of them have been proven to have a long-term effect in ameliorating cancer-associated cachexia. However, recent studies have demonstrated that multidimensional therapeutic modalities are able to alleviate pancreatic cancer-associated cachexia and ultimately improve patients’ outcome. In this current review, we propose a stepwise and pragmatic approach to facilitate and standardize the treatment of cachexia in pancreatic cancer patients. This strategy consists of nutritional, dietary, pharmacological, physical and psychological methods.
PMCID: PMC4110568  PMID: 25071331
Cachexia; Pancreatic neoplasms; Nutritional support; Gastrointestinal neoplasms
2.  Motor protein function in skeletal abdominal muscle of cachectic cancer patients 
Cachexia presents with ongoing muscle wasting, altering quality of life in cancer patients. Cachexia is a limiting prognostic factor for patient survival and health care costs. Although animal models and human trials have shown mechanisms of motorprotein proteolysis, not much is known about intrinsic changes of muscle functionality in cancer patients suffering from muscle cachexia, and deeper insights into cachexia pathology in humans are needed. To address this question, rectus abdominis muscle samples were collected from several surgical control, non-cachectic and cachectic cancer patients and processed for skinned fibre biomechanics, molecular in vitro motility assays, myosin isoform protein compositions and quantitative ubiquitin polymer protein analysis. In pre-cachectic and cachectic cancer patient samples, maximum force was significantly compromised compared with controls, but showed an unexpected increase in myofibrillar Ca2+ sensitivity consistent with a shift from slow to fast myosin isoform expression seen in SDS-PAGE analysis and in vitro motility assays. Force deficit was specific for ‘cancer’, but not linked to presence of cachexia. Interestingly, quantitative ubiquitin immunoassays revealed no major changes in static ubiquitin polymer protein profiles, whether cachexia was present or not and were shown to mirror profiles in control patients. Our study on muscle function in cachectic patients shows that abdominal wall skeletal muscle in cancer cachexia shows signs of weakness that can be partially attributed to intrinsic changes to contractile motorprotein function. On protein levels, static ubiquitin polymeric distributions were unaltered, pointing towards evenly up-regulated ubiquitin protein turnover with respect to ubiquitin conjugation, proteasome degradation and de-ubiquitination.
PMCID: PMC3916119  PMID: 24251822
muscle cachexia; cancer; contractility; myosin isoforms; motility assay
3.  Real-imaging cDNA-AFLP transcript profiling of pancreatic cancer patients: Egr-1 as a potential key regulator of muscle cachexia 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:265.
Cancer cachexia is a progressive wasting syndrome and the most prevalent characteristic of cancer in patients with advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma. We hypothesize that genes expressed in wasted skeletal muscle of pancreatic cancer patients may determine the initiation and severity of cachexia syndrome.
Experimental design
We studied gene expression in skeletal muscle biopsies from pancreatic cancer patients with and without cachexia utilizing Real-Imaging cDNA-AFLP-based transcript profiling for genome-wide expression analysis.
Our approach yielded 183 cachexia-associated genes. Ontology analysis revealed characteristic changes for a number of genes involved in muscle contraction, actin cytoskeleton rearrangement, protein degradation, tissue hypoxia, immediate early response and acute-phase response.
We demonstrate that Real-Imaging cDNA-AFLP analysis is a robust method for high-throughput gene expression studies of cancer cachexia syndrome in patients with pancreatic cancer. According to quantitative RT-PCR validation, the expression levels of genes encoding the acute-phase proteins α-antitrypsin and fibrinogen α and the immediate early response genes Egr-1 and IER-5 were significantly elevated in the skeletal muscle of wasted patients. By immunohistochemical and Western immunoblotting analysis it was shown, that Egr-1 expression is significantly increased in patients with cachexia and cancer. This provides new evidence that chronic activation of systemic inflammatory response might be a common and unifying factor of muscle cachexia.
PMCID: PMC3465185  PMID: 22721276
4.  To whom do the results of the multicenter, randomized, controlled INSECT trial (ISRCTN 24023541) apply? - assessment of external validity 
BMC Surgery  2012;12:2.
A response to Seiler et al: Interrupted or continuous slowly absorbable sutures for closure of primary elective midline abdominal incisions: a multicenter randomized trial (INSECT: ISRCTN24023541). Ann Surg 2009, 249(4):576-582.
Existing evidence suggests that the transfer of results of randomized controlled trials into clinical practice may be limited. Potential reasons can be attributed to aspects of external validity. The aim of this study is to investigate issues related to the external validity of the INSECT trial.
All participating surgical departments were categorized and the clinical and baseline characteristics of randomized patients were evaluated. In addition, demographic and clinical data of all screened and randomized patients at the Departments of Surgery in Heidelberg and Erlangen were analyzed.
Twenty-five centers enrolled a total of 625 patients. These centers included eight primary, 11 secondary, and six tertiary care centers. The tertiary care centers enrolled the most patients (n = 237, 38%) followed by the primary care centers (n = 199, 32%) and the secondary care centers (n = 189 patients; 30%). The mean number and baseline data of randomized patients did not differ between the three types of care centers (p = 0.09). Overall, the treatment according to protocol was at least 92%. At the Department of Surgery, University of Heidelberg, 307 patients were screened and 60 out of 130 eligible patients were randomized. There were no differences in demographic and clinical baseline data between included and non-included patients. In Erlangen, 351 patients were screened and 57 out of 106 eligible patients randomized.
Results of the INSECT trial are applicable to a broad spectrum of patients treated at different hospital levels.
PMCID: PMC3328288  PMID: 22316122
5.  Pancreatic cancerrelated cachexia: influence on metabolism and correlation to weight loss and pulmonary function 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:255.
Dramatic weight loss is an often underestimated symptom in pancreatic cancer patients. Cachexia- defined as an unintended loss of stable weight exceeding 10% – is present in up to 80% of patients with cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract, and has a significant influence on survival. The aim of the study was to show the multiple systemic effects of cachexia in pancreatic cancer patients, in terms of resection rate, effects on pulmonary function, amount of fat and muscle tissue, as well as changes in laboratory parameters.
In patients with pancreatic cancer, clinical appearance was documented, including the amount of weight loss. Laboratory parameters and lung-function tests were evaluated, and the thickness of muscle and fat tissue was measured with computed tomography scans. Statistical analysis, including multivariate analysis, was performed using SPSS software. Survival curves were calculated using Kaplan-Meier analysis and the log-rank test. To test for significant differences between the examined groups we used Student's t-test and the Mann-Whitney U test. Significance was defined as p < 0.05.
Of 198 patients with a ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas, 70% were suffering from weight loss when they presented for operation, and in 40% weight loss exceeded 10% of the stable weight. In patients with cachexia, metastases were diagnosed significantly more often (47% vs. 24%, P < 0.001), leading to a significantly reduced resection rate in these patients. Patients with cachexia had significantly reduced fat tissue amounts. Hence, dramatic weight loss in a patient with pancreatic cancer may be a hint of a more progressed or more aggressive tumour.
Pancreatic cancer patients with cachexia had a higher rate of more progressed tumour stages and a worse nutritional status. Furthermore, patients with cachexia had an impaired lung function and a reduction in fat tissue. Patients with pancreatic cancer and cachexia had significantly reduced survival. If weight loss exceeded 5% there was a significantly reduced resection rate to detect, but the changes were significantly more substantial if weight loss was 10% or more. We propose that a weight loss of 10% be defined as significant in pancreatic cancer.
PMCID: PMC2741486  PMID: 19635171
6.  Second-Look Operation for Unresectable Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma at a High-Volume Center 
Annals of Surgical Oncology  2007;15(1):186-192.
The value of re-exploration for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma after the initial diagnosis of unresectability is unclear.
In this study, we analyzed 33 patients who were re-explored after an initial diagnosis of unresectability.
At the time of reoperation, a resectable tumor was found in 18 patients: therefore, 15 pancreaticoduodenectomies, two total pancreatectomies and one left resection were performed with three vascular resections. Morbidity and mortality rates for the cohort were 6/33 and 1/33, without significant differences between resectable and nonresectable patients. Length of stay, duration of operation, and blood loss were significantly increased in the resection group. Kaplan–Meier survival analysis demonstrated increased median survival for resected patients (1078 days after the initial operation versus 547 days in the group of unresectable patients; p = 0.018). Analysis of the reasons against initial resection showed that, if the patients had been sent to a tertiary referral center for pancreatic surgery, a different decision in favor of resection would probably have been made in 14 out of 33 patients. A review of 10 published reports on reoperation for pancreatic cancer revealed results comparable to our study in terms of low morbidity and mortality as well as a survival benefit.
Reoperation for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma that is initially deemed unresectable can be safely performed in a selected group of patients by experienced surgeons, supporting the concept of patient centralization in pancreatic surgery. Resection at the second operation may confer a survival benefit even when the initial findings preclude a potentially curative approach.
PMCID: PMC2190341  PMID: 17943388
Pancreatic cancer; Reoperation; Second look; Unresectability
7.  Pancreatic metastasis of Merkel cell carcinoma and concomitant insulinoma: Case report and literature review 
Merkel cell carcinomas are rare neoplasm of neuroendocrine origin, usually observed in elderly people in areas with abundant sunlight, and predominantly located on the head and neck, extremities, and trunk. In many patients, a local recurrence after resection of the primary tumour and even distant metastases can be found.
Case presentation
We report an unusual occurrence of pancreatic metastases from a previously diagnosed Merkel cell carcinoma with the discovery of a concomitant insulinoma. An 82-year old lady suffered from recurrent attacks of hypoglycemia and presented with an abdominal mass, 2 years prior she had an excision done on her eyebrow that was reported as Merkel cell carcinoma. An extended distal pancreatectomy and splenectomy along with resection of the left flexure of the colon for her abdominal mass was carried out. Final histopathology of the mass was a poorly differentiated endocrine carcinoma in the pancreatic tail, in the peripancreatic tissue and in the surrounding soft tissue consistent with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma in addition to an insulinoma of the pancreatic body.
This is the first documented case of a metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma and a concomitant insulinoma, suggesting either a mere coincidence or an unknown neuroendocrine tumor syndrome.
PMCID: PMC1208966  PMID: 16137328

Results 1-7 (7)