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Clinical Updates

Digestive Diseases

Program Update: UCLA Center for Pancreatic Diseases


The UCLA Center for Pancreatic Diseases applies a multidisciplinary approach to the evaluation and treatment of patients with pancreatic disease. The center combines the expertise of gastroenterologists dedicated solely to the study and treatment of the pancreas, radiologists with extensive experience in evaluating pancreatic disease, and surgeons in one of the nation’s highest volume pancreas surgery centers. Together, these specialists review each patient’s condition as well as prior and current test results to create a thorough and thoughtful course of treatment.

Common Conditions

Acute pancreatitis

  • Gallstones
  • Severe necrotizing pancreatitis
  • Severe bleeding, infection or abscess

Chronic pancreatitis

  • Obstruction of pancreatic or bile duct
  • Risk of malignancy

Pancreatic cancer and other pancreatic tumors

Pancreatic cysts

  • Incidental findings on a computed tomography (CT) scan

Treatments Available

Using the most advanced diagnostic techniques and equipment, physicians and radiologists attempt to treat pancreatic disease non-surgically, when appropriate.

Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is used to evaluate a mass that was previously detected on a CT scan, or one too small to see on a CT. EUS allows for an accurate interpretation of diseases of the pancreas, bile duct and gallbladder, and can be used to obtain necessary tissue samples for further inspection. EUS also allows the team to determine the size of a pancreatic tumor and whether lymph glands, blood vessels or nearby structures are affected.

Only a small percentage of centers in the U.S. use this specialized technique, which requires extreme expertise of both gastroenterologist and radiologist to evaluate results and determine the next course of treatment.

Using endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), physicians inject contrast dye to study the ducts of the pancreas, gallbladder and liver, and sometimes to obtain tissue for diagnosis. This technique may be used to remove pancreatic duct stones or gallstones in acute biliary pancreatitis. Using this tool, physicians place stents in the bile duct, which can relieve jaundice caused by tumors, remove stones or drain pseudocysts.

Removal or resection of some or all of the pancreas is a viable option for patients with pancreatitis that has caused a portion of the pancreas to die and become infected. Resection in patients with pancreatic cancer, once considered risky, has become a much more successful procedure with a low mortality rate (about 1 percent at UCLA). If the cancer has not spread elsewhere or involved some of the large blood vessels in the local area, patients are candidates for resection. UCLA pancreatic surgeons are among the most experienced in the world.

Ongoing Clinical Trials

Today’s experimental therapies are tomorrow’s cutting-edge solutions. Patients may be eligible to participate in a variety of clinical trials that aim to better understand pancreatic disease and apply new treatments. These trials include:

  • Early detection of pancreatic cancer – CAPS 3 trial
  • EUS- or CT-guided gene therapy for pancreatic cancer

Contact Information

To make an appointment or to consult with a physician in the UCLA Center for Pancreatic Diseases, call (310) 206-6889.

Center Personnel

Barbara Clerkin, RN
Surgery (Nurse Coordinator)

James Farrell, MD

O. Joe Hines, MD

Navid Madani, MD

Howard A. Reber, MD
Surgery (Center Director)

Bennett Roth, MD
Medical Oncology

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