Entries in Pancreatic Cancer (10)


New Technique Could Detect Pancreatic Cancer Early

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Pancreatic cancer is a brutal and deadly disease. Fewer than five percent of patients who are diagnosed with it survive more than five years.

Doctors believe that early detection could increase survival rates. However, the disease has few symptoms that clearly warn patients they have the disease, and blood tests are not very effective at picking it up, detecting only 55 percent of pancreatic cancers.

A group of Japanese researchers has developed a new scientific technique that increases the chances of detecting early stage pancreatic cancers using a blood test.

They developed a technique that can help detect and differentiate cancerous cells from normal cells.

The researchers found that cancer cells produce molecules and proteins in different amounts than normal cells. Eventually, they came up with four molecules that, when observed together, are cancer indicators.

The new mathematical model could increase the odds of detecting early pancreatic cancer to four out of five patients.

This potential breakthrough discovery is still new, and is not widely available in hospital labs.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mystery Rash Leads to Cure of Deadly Cancer

Edward Willliams, shown here with his grandson Jimmy. (Courtesy of Edward Williams)(NEW YORK) -- Edward Williams first noticed a rash on his groin and legs after playing golf one day in the rain.  He thought he might have been exposed to poison ivy or had an allergic reaction to chemicals on the wet grass.  But he never suspected it was a sign of a rare pancreatic cancer.

The blistering sores spread to his arms, legs and even his eyes.  The Waterport, N.Y., software developer went from doctor to doctor, trying every treatment from light therapy to topical ointments to oral steroids, but nothing worked.

"I had to hide it with long sleeves because I'm a business person," said Williams, who is now 54.  "It was all over my face.  I could literally shave only every other day, because it was so painful over the top of the blisters."

Williams lived with the debilitating rash for six years until a suspicious dermatologist from University of Rochester Medical Center in New York followed a hunch and diagnosed necrotic migratory erythema (NME).

Today, two years after surgery to remove the tumor on his pancreas, Williams is cancer-free.

"I feel like a new person," he told ABC News.  "I just thought I had a rash and was getting older and didn't have quite the energy and stamina.  I truly feel like a new person.  And I am taking no medicine for absolutely anything."

And nearly as important, he is rash-free.  "I am back to my baby skin," he said.  "I feel very fortunate."

Pancreatic cancer is almost always fatal.  But Williams had a glucagonoma, a rare, slow-growing tumor of the pancreas that results in extreme overproduction of the blood-glucose-raising hormone glucagon.

His doctors say that this serious condition can often be overlooked, and Williams' story is an example of how dermatologic conditions can be a "window" to the body, revealing more serious disorders.

"The skin has an amazing ability to tell the story of a person," said Dr. Brian Poligone, 40, an assistant professor at Rochester and an attending physician at its James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, who treated Williams.

"I know if they like the sun, or if they smoke, if they are scarred from war, if they are jaundiced with alcoholism -- or what color they painted their porch last weekend," he said.  "It can give you a glimpse inside sometimes even telling you that they have cancer, before they know it."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Early Biomarker Identified for Pancreatic Cancer

Comstock/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Scientists at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine have identified a new biomarker for pancreatic cancer.  The finding helps researchers move one step forward in creating therapeutic treatments for the potentially deadly disease.

Pancreatic cancer can grow without symptoms, so the tumor has often advanced in its stage of growth by the time it is found.  It is the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute, and newly diagnosed patients have a median survival rate of less than a year, according to the study published Tuesday in the journal Cancer Research.

"We found that a kinase [enzyme] called PEAK1 is turned on very early in pancreatic cancer," Jonathan Kelber, an author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in UCSD's department of pathology, said in a statement.  "This protein was clearly detected in biopsies of malignant tumors from human patients -- at the gene and the protein levels -- as well as in mouse models."

A kinase is an enzyme that helps to regulate cell function, and a biomarker is a general term for a substance in the body that is used to indicate some sort of biological state.  Researchers said the specific biomarker they identified acts as an "on" and "off" switch for cellular function.  It is needed for the cancer to grow and spread.

"This study is just one more piece in the puzzle; however, it is probably just a small piece, but still contributes to our understanding as to what drives pancreatic cancer," said Dr. Aaron Sasson, director of the Gastrointestinal Oncology Center of Excellence at University of Nebraska Medical Center.  "The importance in understanding how pancreatic cancer develops is critical if we are ever going to develop effective treatments for this deadly disease."

Dr. Richard Alexander, associate chair of clinical research in the department of surgery at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, praised the research, calling it "a beautifully conducted series of experiments that convincingly show that a protein found in pancreatic cancer cells, PEAK1, has an important role in the progression and spread of pancreatic cancers."

"The authors are to be complimented for the rigor of their scientific work," he added.

Nevertheless, the data are preliminary and were observed under tightly controlled experimental conditions, so the extent to which the biomarkers will be relevant to patients has yet to be determined, Alexander noted.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Link Between Sausage and Cancer?

Scott Boehm/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Eating a single serving of processed meat per day might increase your risk of pancreatic cancer, a new study suggests. Experts say the cancer risk is still small, but reducing the amount of processed meat in your diet is a healthy move.

Based on a review of seven previously published studies, Swedish researchers found the risk of pancreatic cancer was 19 percent higher among men and women who ate roughly four ounces of processed meat per day. That’s about one link of sausage or four pieces of bacon.

“Right now, your lifetime risk of getting pancreatic cancer is 1.4 percent,” said ABC News senior health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. “If you have a serving of processed meat per day, your risk would go up to 1.7 percent; still very small.”

Pancreatic cancer affects roughly one in 65 men and women, according to the National Cancer Institute. But because it’s usually advanced by the time it’s detected, the five-year survival rate is only 5.5 percent.

Although the cancer’s cause is unknown, it’s more common among people who smoke, have diabetes or are obese, confounding variables that make it hard to tease out the role of processed meats alone. “When you’re combining a lot of different studies, it’s sometimes hard to take all of that into account,” Besser said.

Processed meats have also been linked to colon and bladder cancer. And because they’re high in salt and fat, they can raise the risk of other health problems, too. “We’ve always said don’t eat a lot of processed meats,” Besser said.

As for the cancer link, the study authors suspect it might stem from nitrites, chemical preservatives broken down in the stomach and carried to the pancreas through the bloodstream.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mouth Bacteria Mix Might Signal Pancreatic Cancer

Hemera/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Apple founder Steve Jobs’ recent death from pancreatic cancer focused attention on one of the fastest-spreading and deadliest malignancies for which there are no obvious red flags or screening tests.

But now, UCLA researchers may have ignited a spark of hope that a saliva test could one day detect pancreatic cancer.

People particularly dread pancreatic cancer because only 5 percent of patients are alive five years after they’re diagnosed.  Jobs was more fortunate than the majority of patients with the diagnosis, because his neuroendocrine tumor was more treatable and he survived nearly eight years from the time doctors found it.

The new optimism centered around saliva tests begins with the basic premise that the human mouth is a virtual bacterial zoo, home to more than 700 species.  There are good bacteria that help with digestion and immunity, and there are bad bacteria linked to gum disease that also turn up in artery-clogging plaque associated with heart disease.

Writing in the journal Gut, Dr. James J. Ferrell and his colleagues reported finding dramatic differences in the mixtures of bacterial species in the mouths of patients with pancreatic cancer and of healthy people.  Differences also emerged between the levels of particular oral bacteria in men and women with chronic pancreatitis -- an inflammatory disorder and risk factor for pancreatic cancer -- and healthy men and women.

The study, which appeared online Wednesday, was based on an initial comparison of bacterial species in the saliva of 10 patients whose pancreatic cancer hadn’t spread to other organs, and 10 healthy people.  When the researchers analyzed quantities of various bacterial species in the various saliva samples, they found significantly more Granulicatella adiacens bacteria in the spit of cancer patients than in the saliva of healthy comparison subjects.  They had significantly lower levels of Streptococcus mitis and Neisseria elongata bacteria than the healthy controls.

To bolster their findings, they dug a little deeper by then examining saliva samples from 28 pancreatic cancer patients, 28 healthy people and 27 people with chronic pancreatitis.  The G. adiacens levels were higher in the cancer patients than either group without cancer.

So far, they’re unable to say whether different combinations of bacteria are a cause or an effect of pancreatic cancer.  The study didn’t examine changes in oral bacteria after pancreatic cancer patients had their tumors removed, nor could it track changes in oral bacteria populations through the course of disease.

However, they said, their results suggested that saliva “is a scientifically feasible and credible biomarker source” for diseases outside the mouth and is potentially attractive because it’s non-invasive and inexpensive.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Four-Drug Chemo Combo Offers More Time for Pancreatic Cancer Patients

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(NANCY, France) -- A new French study suggests that regular treatment, including a four-drug chemotherapy combo, can almost double the survival time in patients with fatal pancreatic cancer.

Researchers in the study divided 342 patients with advanced stage pancreatic cancer into two groups, giving one group the standard treatment and the other FOLFIRINOX -- the four-drug combination therapy.

Results published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that the median survival time improved from almost 7 months for patients receiving the traditional treatment, to just over 11 months for patients receiving the combo.  Despite the improved survival time, patients in the combo group suffered greater side effects, however.

The study authors conclude that the FOLFIRINOX regimen can stabilize patients for a greater amount of time while delaying degradation of quality of life. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA Approves New Drug to Treat Pancreatic Cancer

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced the approval of a drug that helps in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, providing some encouraging news for patients with the disease.

On Friday the FDA said that it has approved the drug Afinitor (everolimus) for treatment to patients with progressive neuroendocrine tumors located in the pancreas, that cannot be removed by surgery or that have spread to other parts of the body.

“Patients with this cancer have few effective treatment options,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Oncology Drug Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Afinitor has demonstrated the ability to slow the growth and spread of neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas.”

In a news release, the FDA says the drug was deemed safe for use after a clinical trial involving 410 patients who either had progressive neuroendocrine tumors spread to other parts of the body or had a disease that could not be removed with surgery. During the trial some patients reportedly received Afinitor and others received placebo (sugar pill).

The FDA says after being treated with Afinitor, the median length of time patients lived without the cancer spreading or worsening was 11 months, as compared to a period of 4.6 months for patients that received placebo.

Afinitor has also been approved to treat patients with kidney cancer and patients with a type of brain cancer called subependymal giant cell astrocytoma.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Widow of Patrick Swayze Announces Bill to Reduce Pancreatic Cancer

Photo Courtesy - Logan Mock-Bunting/FilmMagic(WASHINGTON) -- The widow of the late actor Patrick Swayze spoke on Capitol Hill Wednesday announcing the re-introduction of a bill to cut the mortality rate from pancreatic cancer, the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act.

Most patients afflicted with the disease die within a year.  Lisa Niemi Swayze says there must be early detection and better treatment to give patients more hope. "A lot of these cancers that have seen such incredible progress over the last twenty years or so have done so because they had survivors championing their causes - and pancreatic cancer can't boast that kind of alumni."

Swayze died in 2009, nearly 22 months after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  The disease is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. and is relatively underfunded. There is no cure or early detection.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Steve Jobs' Cancer Treatment in Switzerland Experimental, Effective

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Recent media reports have begun to shed more light on Steve Jobs' medical condition and the treatment he's believed to have sought overseas.

According to Fortune magazine, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple, Inc, who is currently on medical leave, flew to Switzerland in 2009 to receive a treatment for neuroendocrine cancer that isn't yet approved in the U.S.  The Wall Street Journal reported Jobs also had a liver transplant that year.

Fortune said it learned about the unpublicized trip to Switzerland from former Apple director Jerry York, who died in 2010.

In 2004, doctors found that Jobs had a pancreatic neuroendocrine islet cell tumor, which is very different from the more well-known pancreatic cancer that took the life of actor Patrick Swayze in 2009.

Neuroendocrine cancers affect cells throughout the body that secrete hormones.  The tumors can cause the secretion of either too much hormone or not enough.  They are relatively rare, but more and more new cases are being diagnosed, and experts attribute that trend to better recognition of these tumors.

Experts say the treatment Jobs underwent is an experimental procedure called peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT).  It involves delivering radiation to tumor cells by attaching one of two radioactive isotopes to a drug that mimics somatostatin, the hormone that regulates the entire endocrine system and the secretion of other hormones.

Specialists who treat neuroendocrine cancers say PRRT is very effective, but because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn't yet approved it, patients who want the treatment typically head to Europe for it.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Docs Say Steve Jobs Likely Dealing with Pancreatic Cancer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Nearly two years since receiving a new liver and fighting a rare form of pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple Inc., announced to his employees Monday he will take an indefinite leave of absence from the company to focus on his health.

While Jobs did not address specific health reasons, many experts say it's likely that his leave is related to his ongoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.

"I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can," Jobs wrote in the latest message to his team.

Jobs, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004, initially underwent surgery to remove the tumor. A few months after announcing a leave of absence in January 2009, Jobs had a liver transplant.

Experts say the length of his survival is mainly because he had a slow-growing, rare cancer called a pancreatic neuroendocrine islet cell tumor. While experts say neuroendocrine cancers are known to spread to the liver, Jobs remained private about his condition and the reason behind his transplant.

Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., where Jobs underwent his transplant, confirmed that Jobs is no longer a patient at the hospital and declined to comment to ABC News about Jobs' transplant.

"You hear the term pancreatic cancer and you immediately think Pavarotti or Patrick Swayze, but this is a completely different animal," Dr. Andrew Warshaw, surgeon-in-chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, told MedPage Today and ABC News.

"For adenomas, the timeline is very short. The pace of progress with neuroendocrine cancers can be many years, even with metastatic disease. It has a different biology," said Warshaw.

Only six percent of patients with any form of pancreatic cancer live longer than five years, according to the nonprofit organization Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Neuroendocrine tumors are slow-growing, but frequently metastasize to the liver. Researchers say that appears to be what happened to Jobs, who underwent a liver transplant at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., in April 2009.

Dr. Richard Alexander, a surgical oncologist at the University of Maryland who specializes in pancreatic cancer, said this is a very rare treatment, and is usually a last resort when the metastasized cancer doesn't respond to treatments such as chemotherapy.

Dr. David Metz, a gastroenterologist at the University of Pennsylvania who conducted a 2005 literature review on liver transplant for neuroendocrine tumor metastases, said survival is variable: "Some recur in a year; others, a few years after surgery."

Data in his report noted a 52-percent survival rate two years after liver transplantation -- but he cautioned that accurate outcome data are hard to come by because the procedure is so rare.

If the tumor has recurred, Alexander said treatment options would include chemotherapy or embolization, although performing surgery "on a transplanted liver is high-risk."

Patients who undergo transplants are typically put on immunosuppressant medication to help their bodies accept the new liver. However, suppressing the immune system can allow cancer cells to grow more quickly, said Alexander.

Warshaw said patients who get immunosuppressants can respond very differently to regular cancer treatments.

"All bets are off" for understanding what type of treatment will be successful, Warshaw said.

Still, it is not clear why Jobs is taking this leave, his third since 2004. Aside from tumor recurrence, he could also be dealing with organ rejection or a possible hormone imbalance if the tumor is active.

In general, Metz said neuroendocrine pancreatic tumors are a relief "because patients stick around for a long time and we can use various modalities to treat them. The downside is that the likelihood of 'curing' people once they've metastasized is very low."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio