Pancreatic cancer is the ninth and tenth most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and men, respectively, in the U.S. It is the fourth deadliest cancer for men and women. It is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially in over 40 years.
- Risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer include tobacco use, being overweight — especially obese, heavy exposure to certain chemicals, family history of the disease, age, chronic or hereditary pancreatitis and long-standing type 2 diabetes.
- An estimated 56,770 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2019, with 45,750 deaths expected to result from the diagnosis.
- Pancreatic cancer is expected to become the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.by the year 2030.
- The overall five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is just 9%.
Source: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2019 and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2018
Pancreatic Cancer Research
In addition to specific projects listed below, genomics research is helping us attack pancreatic cancer – and all types of cancer. NFCR has distinguished itself from other organizations by emphasizing long-term, transformative research and working to move people toward cancer genomics.
Respectively, current and past NFCR-sponsored scientists, Dr. Daniel Von Hoff and Dr. Laurence Hurley, are working on an entirely new approach to treating cancer by developing drugs that block newly-recognized genetic structures called “super enhancers.” These large clusters of DNA regulatory elements control the expression of a host of genes — including the critical cancer gene c-Myc – and offer a great opportunity for cancer disruption. This new approach may lead to great improved treatments for pancreatic cancer, lung cancer (small-cell type, in particular), lymphoma, multiple myeloma, colorectal and other cancers.
NFCR-affiliated scientist Dr. Yung-Chi Cheng’s laboratory is working to bring Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) into the mainstream of Western medicine, with hopes of reducing the side effects of chemotherapy, while enhancing the benefits. Since the late 1990s, Dr. Cheng’s team has been exploring the therapeutic properties of PHY906, a Chinese herbal medicine formula. They discovered that, when combined with chemotherapy, PHY906 alleviates the unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects of chemotherapy for pancreatic, colon, rectal and liver cancer patients. Moreover, their research demonstrated that PHY906 also has its own, solo anti-tumor attributes. If there is continued success in clinical trials, PHY906 could become one of the first FDA-approved oral herbal medicines for anti-cancer treatment.