Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma staging: A narrative review of radiologic techniques and advances
Chu, Linda C. MD; Fishman, Elliot K. MD
Radiology plays an important role in the initial diagnosis and staging of patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). CT is the preferred modality over MRI, due to wider availability, greater consistency in image quality, and lower cost. MRI and PET/CT are usually reserved as problem-solving tools in select patients. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines define resectability criteria based on tumor involvement of the arteries and veins, and triage patients into resectable, borderline resectable, locally advanced, and metastatic categories. Patients with resectable disease are eligible for upfront surgical resection, while patients with high-stage disease are treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy with hopes of downstaging the disease. The accuracy of staging critically depends on imaging technique and the experience of the radiologists. Several challenges in accurate preoperative staging include prediction of lymph node metastases, detection of subtle liver and peritoneal metastases, and disease restaging following neoadjuvant therapy. Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to function as “second readers” to improve upon the radiologists’ detection of small early-stage tumors, which can shift more patients toward surgical resection of potentially curable cancer. AI may also provide imaging biomarkers that can predict disease recurrence and patient survival after pancreatic resection and assist in selection of patients most likely to benefit from surgery thus improving patient outcomes.