Finding Hope in the Search for a Pancreatic Cancer Cure
Pancreatic cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., with a five-year survival rate of less than 5 percent. But there are reasons to be hopeful that we’ll find a cure for pancreatic cancer in our lifetimes. And progress is being made on many fronts: more people are surviving pancreatic cancer, researchers have new tools and insights into how to treat it, and clinical trial processes are improving. The search for a pancreatic cancer cure has never been more promising.
In pancreatic cancer research, the good news outweighs the bad.
As in any field of study, there are setbacks and disappointments. But the overall trend is positive: scientists are getting smarter at finding the right biomarkers and screening methods, which will ultimately lead to earlier detection; immunotherapy’s promise is real; and it looks like combination therapy may be a game changer.
In addition, more money has been put into pancreatic cancer research than ever before. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has launched initiatives such as the Pancreatic Cancer Moonshot 2020 program and its Early Detection Research Network (EDRN), both of which aim to speed up progress toward finding a cure through better understanding of why certain people get pancreatic cancer while others don’t—and how we can use that information to improve diagnosis tools so they’re more accurate earlier on in patients’ lives.
More people are surviving pancreatic cancer.
It’s encouraging to know that more people are surviving pancreatic cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, survival rates have increased over the past 20 years and more than half of patients diagnosed with early-stage pancreatic cancer are still alive one year after diagnosis. However, the survival rate for this disease remains lower than that of some other common cancers: only 7% of people who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive five years after their diagnosis. This number drops significantly if they do not receive treatment at an early stage; only 2% of patients who are diagnosed with advanced stage 3 or 4 live beyond five years after their diagnoses.
These statistics show us how much progress has been made in finding a cure for this deadly disease! It also shows us that there is still a long way to go before we can say with confidence that we’ve found it—and there is no reason why you should lose hope just yet!
New treatments are making a difference.
With new treatments, you have more options. And these treatment options are better than what was available before. They’re more effective, tolerable and cost-effective. Plus, they’re accessible and personalised for each person’s unique needs.
No one knows when a breakthrough will come, but we can be optimistic about progress already made—and hopeful for what’s to come in the future of pancreatic cancer research and care.
Immunotherapy’s promise is real.
The immune system is the body’s natural defense against cancer. It works by recognizing and targeting abnormal cells for destruction. In fact, it can sometimes be able to destroy or contain tumors even before they start to grow.
Immune therapy harnesses the power of the immune system to fight cancer by helping it recognize cancer cells as foreign invaders and attack them as such. There are several ways this process can happen:
- Immunotherapy drugs may stimulate your own white blood cells—including T cells and B cells—to do their job more effectively.
- Some immunotherapy drugs target specific proteins on your tumor that are found only on cancerous cells (but not normally on healthy ones). This allows your immune system to recognize that these proteins make a cell unhealthy, so it targets them for attack!
Combination therapy is a game changer.
Combination therapy is a new way of treating cancer. This approach involves using two or more drugs together to treat a disease. Combination therapy is more effective than single drug therapy and it’s being used to treat several types of cancer, including pancreatic, brain and breast cancers.
The idea behind combination therapy is that different types of drugs work better together than they would on their own. A good example of this is when doctors use an antibiotic with another medicine to kill bacteria in people who have MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). If you take antibiotics alone, they won’t fight off the infection because it has become resistant to them—but if you add another medicine that targets another part of the bacterial cell wall, then your chance at beating the infection will be much higher!
Researchers are getting smarter at finding the right biomarkers and screening methods.
Biomarkers are a way to identify the presence of cancer in the body. They can be used to determine if a patient is a candidate for a drug, or if a treatment is working. Biomarkers are also used as screening methods for early detection (like colonoscopy).
In pancreatic cancer research, biomarkers have been hard to find because pancreatic tumors don’t have many recognizable features that make them easy to identify and study. But researchers are getting smarter at finding these elusive biomarkers—and it’s making all the difference in their ability to cure this deadly disease.
The process of clinical trials has improved.
As you may know, clinical trials are the next step in the medical process after a medication or treatment has been tested in animals and then tested on humans. Clinical trials are a way to get new drugs and treatments approved for use. They can also be used to test out new procedures or surgeries before they become standard practice.
In order for new treatments to be approved, they must pass through rigorous testing by experts called Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). These boards ensure that patients are given accurate information regarding their participation in clinical trials. If someone enrolls in a trial without knowing this information, then it could be considered unfair treatment—and therefore unethical!
There’s more money in pancreatic cancer research than ever before.
The National Cancer Institute has increased its budget for pancreatic cancer research by more than $100 million in the last five years. Although much of that increase was provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, it stands to reason that there will be continued funding for pancreatic cancer research moving forward.
There are more reasons to be hopeful about finding a cure for pancreatic cancer than ever before.
There are more reasons to be hopeful about finding a cure for pancreatic cancer than ever before. The number of people surviving the disease is increasing, and there are new treatments that improve outcomes. New screening methods are helping doctors diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier. More money is being invested in research into this deadly disease, thanks in part to public awareness campaigns such as the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Purple Stride walks. And better understanding of the biology of pancreatic cancer is helping researchers develop new therapies to target it more effectively and specificially.
By taking a closer look at the state of pancreatic cancer research and treatment today, we can see that there’s plenty of reason to be hopeful about finding a cure for this disease. Researchers have made great strides in understanding what causes pancreatic cancer, as well as how best to treat it. New drugs are being developed every day—and some of them may even be able to stop the disease from spreading in the first place! We’re also getting better at screening people who are at risk for pancreatic cancer so they can get diagnosed earlier on when treatment options might be more effective.