Cancer Types | Pancreatic Cancer - NFCR

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer

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.

Key Facts

  • An estimated 57,600 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2020, with 47,050 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%.
  • Risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer include tobacco use, overweight and obesity, heavy exposure to certain chemicals, family history of the disease, age, chronic or hereditary pancreatitis, and long-standing type 2 diabetes. Individuals with Lynch syndrome and certain other genetic syndromes, as well as BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers, are also at increased risk.
Source: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2020 and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (2018)
Pancreatic
57600
new cases expected in 2020
47050
deaths expected in 2020
9
% five-year survival rate

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.

Danny R. Welch, Ph.D.
Danny R. Welch, Ph.D.

Dr. Danny Welch and his team have discovered eight metastasis suppressor genes that get turned off when cancer cells become metastatic cells. The most recent of these discoveries is the ITI5H gene that blocks metastasis of pancreatic cancer in experimental models of metastasis. In a panel of human pancreatic cancer samples, expression of ITIH5 correlated with nearly 25% 7-year survival, compared to the 9% 5-year survival for most patients. While this discovery research is in its early stages, ITI5H holds promise for understanding how pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas metastasize and could be used as a biomarker to guide physicians in planning treatment for patients.

NFCR Fellow Dr. Yung-Chi Cheng
Yung-Chi Cheng, Ph.D.

NFCR began funding Dr. Yung-Chi Cheng in 1991 with his discovery research on PH-906 (now known as YIV-906) – a botanical drug that enhances ant-cancer activity in immunotherapy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. YIV-906 also protects the gastrointestinal tract, reducing the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. Patients with pancreatic cancer were some of the first patients to experience these beneficial properties of YIV-906 in early Phase I clinical trials.

With support from the NFCR AIM-HI Translational Research Initiative, Dr. Cheng has now brought YIV-906 to a global Phase II clinical trial in 2020. YIV-906 is first treating Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)-associated liver cancer in combination with sorafenib, a front-line drug that has modest response rates and serious toxicities. If YIV-906 improves patients’ outcomes, it could become one of the first FDA-approved oral herbal medicines for anti-cancer treatment. Its acceptance as an approved drug would facilitate future clinical trials to benefit patients with other types of cancer. Significantly, since YIV-906 affects multiple biological systems, it will usher in a new model for drug discovery to treat patients holistically.

Daniel Von Hoff, M.D
Daniel Von Hoff, M.D

Dr. Daniel Von Hoff has developed an antibody pipeline to create strategic therapies of ‘monoclonal antibodies’ – proteins that specifically bind and inhibit one substance. The first monoclonal antibodies in development are those that bind to a key molecular ‘target’ found on fibrotic cells that surround pancreatic and other types of cancer. Targets bound with antibody can no longer signal to tumor cells to metastasize from the primary tumor. With funds from NFCR, promising monoclonal antibodies are in final pre-clinical stages and may soon enter clinical trials to treat colorectal cancer patients who need a new effective treatment to save their lives. The strategic monoclonal antibodies to stop growth and metastasis in pancreatic and lung cancer will be a future application of this promising treatment.

Related Content

Pancreatic Cancer: Warnings and Wellness

NFCR Chief Medical Officer Shares His Expertise for Improved Pancreatic Cancer Awareness The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR)’s Dr. Brian Leyland-Jones contributed to the popular online platform Eat This, Not That!’s feature in efforts to spread awareness of one of the most deadly and difficult to detect cancers: 11 Warning Signs of Pancreatic Cancer. Dr. Leyland-Jones’ career spans decades, and has led him to become an authority within the pancreatic cancer-fighting community. Dr. Leyland Jones serves as Board Member and Chief Medical Officer for NFCR, offering his extensive expertise to NFCR’s fundraising missions. Boasting over 100 million readers, Eat This, Not That! publishes expert- and research-backed tips on food, nutrition, and health. Dr. Leyland-Jones’ tips on pancreatic cancer awareness help strengthen the deep catalogue of recipes, diet recommendations, and general wellness tips on the popular online platform. Warning Signs Early detection is crucial for early intervention with pancreatic cancer. The disease has an overall five-year survival rate of just 9% and is likely to rise to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. by the year 2030. These facts, coupled with pancreatic cancer’s significant reputation as one of the silent killers, showcase the importance of knowing these 11 warning signs: Blood Clots Ascites Jaundice Sudden Weight Loss Upper Abdominal Pain Depression and Anxiety (Before Diagnosis) Nausea and Vomiting Diabetes Pale Feces and Dark Urine Enlarged Gallbladder or Liver Unexplainable Fatigue Outside of these symptoms, Dr. Leyland-Jones emphasizes the importance of keeping up-to-date on your yearly physicals, stating, “It is very difficult to detect early. For yearly physicals, some people also get PET scans and CT scans. However, the progression is so fast, these kinds of scans would need to be done every six months.” With approximately 60,000 new cases per year, pancreatic cancer will continue to be a significant concern. Know these warning signs and keep up with day-to-day wellness and yearly physicals in order to stay on top of your health!   Did you know that November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month? Subscribe to NFCR social media channels to stay up to date on the latest developments in the fight against pancreatic cancer. You can also visit our donation page to join in our fundraising efforts! Additional Reads You May Enjoy: Thunder God Vine: A Powerful Discovery for Pancreatic Cancer Patients 5 Tips for Eating Healthy While Traveling Coping With Cancer—It’s Different for Everyone Receive our monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips and more. Sign up here. 

Thunder God Vine: A Powerful Discovery for Pancreatic Cancer Patients

With a name as powerful as Thunder God Vine comes great responsibility – and National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR)-funded researcher Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff has proven that this medicinal plant is up for the challenge.  Dr. Von Hoff is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on pancreatic cancer.  He and his team began exploring how thunder god vine — an herb used in China for centuries to treat joint pain, swelling, and fever — could be used for cancer patients. The team was overcome with excitement as they discovered a particular compound in this miracle herb can kill cancer cells and potentially improve clinical outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is the ninth and tenth most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and men, respectively, in the United States. It is the fourth deadliest cancer and is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially in over 40 years. An estimated 57,600 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, with 47,050 deaths expected to result from the diagnosis. With little to no groundbreaking discoveries or treatment, pancreatic cancer is expected to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States by 2030. The key ingredient of the thunder god vine is called triptolide. Triptolide makes up a molecule called Minnelide, which appears to attack pancreatic cancer cells. It also attacks the tumor’s stroma or outer layer that shields it from the body’s immune system. This allows Minnelide to disrupt ‘super-enhancers,’ strings of DNA that aid the growth and survival of pancreatic cancer cells. The team found that disrupting these super-enhancers attacks the cancer cells and the stroma, which helps accelerate cancer cell death. Thunder god vine is commonly found in China and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years. The approaches that make up traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, tai chi, and herbal products, have been the subjects of many clinical studies and scientific reviews. Researchers have concluded that traditional Chinese medicine may help improve quality of life and certain pain conditions, and it is becoming more and more prevalent in western medicine practices. Today, for example, thunder god vine is used for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, lupus, psoriasis, fever, amongst other conditions.  This new approach using an old method may provide means for effective treatment options for pancreatic cancer patients, a glimmer of hope that health professionals and patients have long-awaited. To learn more about groundbreaking research undertaken by NFCR-funded researchers, visit our scientist page. Additional Reads You May Enjoy: Controlling the Uncontrollable: HER2 Breast Cancer Propelling the Fight Against Pancreatic Cancer Ancient Wisdom, Modern Cure Stay connected with the cancer community! Receive NFCR’s monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips, and more. Sign up here.

Coping With Cancer—It’s Different for Everyone

Everyone’s journey with cancer is different, also unique to them is the way in which they cope with the disease. Taking two late celebrities, Alex Trebek and Chadwick Boseman as an example, we can see the differences in how individuals deal with a cancer diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer may only rank at number nine and ten in terms of most commonly diagnosed cancers amongst men and women (respectively), but most Americans are well aware of the disease ever since Jeopardy host Alex Trebek was diagnosed last year. The deadly disease has a low five-year-survival rate at only 9%. Most Americans are well aware of the disease ever since the late Jeopardy host Alex Trebek was diagnosed in 2019 and sadly passed away in November 2020. Though undoubtedly a trying year for Trebek, his loved ones, and his fans, the game show host publicly battled his cancer with his return to Jeopardy in September 2020. A year-and-a-half after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Trebek became an inspiration for many affected by pancreatic cancer. Despite the side effects, which include fatigue, Trebek returned to the Jeopardy stage to do what he loved most. His passion for living life had his recently published memoir flying off the shelves. Appropriately titled ‘The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life’, the memoir explores Trebek’s entire life to date – including his childhood through to his life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the memoir is not a story specifically about his cancer journey, Trebek used his fame to bring awareness to pancreatic cancer. In partnership with the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition, Trebek participated in a worldwide awareness initiative wherein he encouraged the public to know the risk factors and the symptoms of the deadly disease. His fame sparked conversation about pancreatic cancer while showing the patients across the world that cancer does not define a person. While Trebek made great efforts to bring awareness to pancreatic cancer, some celebrities choose not to use their diagnosis to spearhead conversation. Actor Chadwick Boseman battled colon cancer before passing away in mid-2020. Unlike Trebek, he chose to keep his journey private. After his death, however, a wave of colon cancer awareness flooded the world. Both Trebek and Boseman are beloved by their fans; however the differences between their journeys with cancer highlight that, even as a celebrity, a cancer diagnosis is an extremely personal experience. For Trebek, raising awareness and talking about his difficult prognosis helped him cope with the news. Boseman found strength in continuing his life as normal, only discussing his cancer treatment with those closest to him. Trebek and Boseman are perfect and timely examples of how each person copes differently. There is no correct way to deal with a cancer diagnosis – whether a new diagnosis or an ongoing experience. Like many aspects of life, seeing someone else handle a situation differently can cause doubt with one’s own approach. However, as Trebek and Boseman nobly demonstrated, deciding whether to speak about a cancer diagnosis publicly is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong way for any patient to navigate such a decision. Each journey […]