The 5-year survival of patients with pancreatic cancer is poor and, despite oncological advances over the past two decades, has not significantly improved. However, there have been several surgical and oncological advances which have improved morbidity and mortality in surgery and more efficacious chemotherapy regimens, resulting in a better patient experience and an increase in survival by a number of months. Most patients have a tumour at the head of the pancreas and those with resectable disease undergo a pancreaticoduodenectomy, which can be performed laparoscopically. Those who have a pancreatic resection have an increased survival in comparison with those receiving oncological treatment only; however, only a quarter of patients have resectable disease at diagnosis. Some centres are now performing venous resections and/or arterial resections in order to increase the number of patients eligible for curative surgery. Innovative techniques using ablation technologies to downstage tumours for resection are also being investigated. After surgery, all patients should be offered adjuvant gemcitabine-based chemotherapy. Those with locally advanced tumours not suitable for surgery should be offered FOLFIRINOX chemotherapy, after which the tumour may be suitable for surgical resection. The use of radiotherapy in this group of patients is controversial but offered by a few centres. Patients with metastatic disease at diagnosis should also be offered FOLFIRINOX chemotherapy, which can improve survival by a few months. As our knowledge of the tumour biology of pancreatic cancer progresses, a number of new agents targeting specific genes and proteins are under investigation and there is hope that median survival will continue to improve over the next decade.
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