Investigating the impact of body composition and nutritional intervention strategies in pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the 9th most common cancer in Ireland, and the 5th most common cause of cancer related death. Because of its location deep within the abdomen, patients often present with advanced cancer at the time of diagnosis. The options for treatment are limited as surgery is only suitable for patients who don't have spread of the cancer outside of the pancreas. Alternative treatments include chemotherapy which can prove difficult for patients to tolerate due to side effects.
The pancreas is necessary for digestion; it does this by producing enzymes or chemicals which help to break down the nutrients in our food, and by producing the hormones which control blood sugar levels. When the pancreas is not working properly, patients can have problems absorbing the energy and goodness from their food, and lose weight rapidly. Malnutrition causes delays in treatment and recovery, and may cause distress to the patient and their families. In addition pancreatic cancer patients are very vulnerable to cancer cachexia - a condition which accelerates loss of muscle or strength.
New advances have shown that CT scans can help with analysing the body composition or make up. Experts recommend that the body scans are better than weight or Body Mass Index at determining the risk of malnutrition and also cachexia.
This study aims to review and analyse the CT scans of newly diagnosed pancreatic cancer patients referred to the dietitian and treated surgically at St.Vincent's Hospital between 2011 and 2013, and assess any relationship between their surgical outcome and experience, and nutritional status at the time of their diagnosis.
Following on from this work we plan to design and assess the impact of a specialised nutritional care plan for pancreatic cancer patients in an attempt to reduce their risk of malnutrition and the impact of malabsorption and cachexia.


Award Date
14 May 2016
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Ms Oonagh Griffin
Host Institution
Trinity College Dublin
Research Training Fellowships for Healthcare Professionals