Six Things To Know About Pancreatic Cancer

Six Things To Know About Pancreatic Cancer

TGen’s pancreatic cancer research is led by TGen’s physician-in-chief and distinguished professor Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, described as the nation’s “leading authority” on this disease by Dr. Eric Topol in his 2012 book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine.

Dr. Von Hoff describes six things you should know about pancreatic cancer: 

What is the pancreas?

Shaped like a small banana, this gland assists in food digestion and hormone production, including insulin. It is tucked between the stomach and spine, deep in the abdominal cavity. That location greatly hinders early detection of pancreatic cancer. 

Pancreatic cancer currently is the nation’s fourth leading cause of cancer-related death.

This year, more than 46,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this disease, and nearly 40,000 will succumb to it. By 2020, it is projected to become the nation’s second leading cause of cancer-related death, trailing only lung cancer as the biggest killer. 

It claims a higher percentage of lives than any other form of cancer, but with new treatment there is an improvement in survival.

Unfortunately, more than 70 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer die within one year of diagnosis, and fewer than 6 percent survive more than 5 years. But there is hope through earlier detection and increasingly more effective treatments. There are now two new treatments that improve survival even for people with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Last year, following worldwide tests initiated by TGen, the FDA approved a drug called nanoparticle albumin-coated paclitaxel (Abraxane), which was found to extend the survival of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. In addition, the regimen Folfirinox, developed by French investigators, also improved survival for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Other potential advances in treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer are in ongoing clinical trials. Ask your doctor about participation in one of those clinical trials.

 Risk factors for and symptoms of pancreatic cancer.

Currently, there is no screening test for the disease, so it usually is not diagnosed until its late stages when it is much more difficult to treat. Surgical removal of the tumor is possible only about 1 in 5 patients. Being alert to risk factors can help. Risk factors include: family history of the disease (often in younger people), diabetes or new onset diabetes, inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), smoking, age and sedentary lifestyle. Symptoms include: abdominal or back pain, weight loss, yellowing of the skin and eyes, loss of appetite, and nausea.

 Discovering a method of early detection is a priority for pancreatic cancer research.

At TGen, we team with clinical partners dedicated to finding a method for early detection of pancreatic cancer. A method of early detection for pancreatic cancer that, like a mammogram for breast cancer, would provide the ability to get ahead of this disease and treat it in its early stages. This would give pancreatic cancer patients a very good fighting chance at long-term survival or cure. To find the method for early detection, or better treatment, requires more patients to enter clinical trials. In partnership with TGen, oncology clinical trials are conducted at HonorHealth Research Institute. Patients seeking information about research clinical trials may contact HonorHealth Oncology Nurse Navigator at 480-323-1339, or toll free at 1-877-273-3713, or e-mail: [email protected]

 Keep fighting pancreatic cancer in every way you can. 

Pancreatic cancer is not some impossible enemy. We need “all hands on deck” to get this one. Many other cancers have been cured. This one will be too. Gather a team who will keep you comfortable and in the best possible shape to keep fighting. Breakthroughs happen and often happen quickly. We must keep after it to defeat it.


OneMore focuses on preventing and curing pancreatic cancer by aggressively pursuing the genetic causes of the disease and the rapid translation of new information into more effective treatments.


While OneMore's efforts to cure pancreatic cancer are advancing at an unprecedented rate, funding is needed to continue our unique international effort.

Lee Hanley Hotline

Named after Lee Hanley, the Hotline provides information on all things pancreatic cancer, including research, trials and avenues of support for patients and their families.