In the past year, numerous important papers were published on chronic pancreatitis, its causes, and its diagnosis; the cause of fibrosis; and pain in pancreatic cancer. More than 750 mutations have been described in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR) gene. Some mutations cause relatively mild reductions in CFTR function and may lead to disease in one organ without clinical involvement of other organs. Two groups of investigators recently reported that 'idiopathic' chronic pancreatitis may be the sole manifestation of some CFTR mutations. Some recent reports may enhance our understanding of pancreatic fibrogenesis and may lead to therapies for painful chronic pancreatitis. Pancreatic stellate cells are vitamin A-containing cells that resemble hepatic stellate cells and were recently isolated from rat and human pancreas. They respond to inflammatory cytokines by producing collagen. Two studies show that endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS) correlates well with endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography in moderate to severe chronic pancreatitis. However, in patients who have a few nondiagnostic abnormalities on EUS, these results have poor correlation with the results of endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography and the secretin test. The clinical significance of these abnormalities is unclear, and the diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis should not be based on EUS findings alone. Painful chronic pancreatitis is a complex and difficult management problem. A recent study of alcoholic chronic pancreatitis suggests that the best predictors of pain relief are an intermittent pattern of pain and the presence of surgically correctable complications (eg, pseudocysts or biliary obstruction). An American Gastroenterological Association technical review of painful chronic pancreatitis emphasized the lack of controlled studies supporting any form of therapy. Further evidence that longstanding chronic pancreatitis is a premalignant condition has been provided by recent epidemiologic, pathologic, and molecular biology studies.
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