Treatments for recurrent pancreatic cancer

Recurrent pancreatic cancer means that the cancer has come back after it has been treated. The following are treatment options for recurrent pancreatic cancer. The treatment for recurrent cancer depends on where the cancer comes back and what treatments were used before. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.


Chemotherapy is usually offered for recurrent pancreatic cancer. The type of chemotherapy used will depend on the chemotherapy drugs you had to treat the original tumour.

Chemotherapy drugs and drug combinations used to treat recurrent pancreatic cancer are:

  • gemcitabine (Gemzar)
  • FOLFIRINOX – folinic acid (leucovorin), 5-fluorouracil (Adrucil, 5-FU), irinotecan (Camptosar) and oxaliplatin (Eloxatin)
  • gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane)
  • 5-fluorouracil and folinic acid, or capecitabine, with or without oxaliplatin
  • nanoliposomal irinotecan (Onivyde) with 5-fluorouracil and folinic acid


You may be offered surgery to relieve symptoms of recurrent pancreatic cancer (called palliative surgery).

Stent placement is one of the most common ways to relieve a blockage caused by a pancreatic tumour. A stent is a thin, hollow tube that is placed into the duct to keep it open.

Surgical bypass may be used in some cases. There are different types of surgical bypass used depending on the location of the blockage.

Radiation therapy

You may be offered radiation therapy to control pain from recurrent pancreatic cancer (called palliative therapy).

If you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment

You may want to consider a type of care to make you feel better without treating the cancer itself. This may be because the cancer treatments don’t work anymore, they’re not likely to improve your condition or they may cause side effects that are hard to cope with. There may also be other reasons why you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment.

Talk to your healthcare team. They can help you choose care and treatment for advanced cancer.

Clinical trials

Some clinical trials in Canada are open to people with pancreatic cancer. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Pancreatic Cancer. 2016.
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Pancreatic Cancer. 2015.
  • Dragovich, T. Pancreatic Cancer Treatment and Management. 2016:
  • Dragovich, T. Pancreatic Cancer Guidelines. 2016:
  • National Cancer Institute. Pancreatic Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. 2016.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma (Version 2.2016).
  • Winter JM, Brody JR, Abrams RA, Lewis NL, Yeo CJ . Cancer of the pancreas. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 49: 657-684.