Pancreatic cancer: Only research can change '2nd-deadliest' prediction

May 21, 2014 | by Denise Heady

The news for pancreatic cancer is admittedly not good. Although overall cancer death rates continue to decline in the United States, pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers with death rates projected to continue to rise in the next 15 years.

pancreatic cancer Cancer of the pancreas is expected to become the second-leading cancer killer in the U.S. by 2030. That's why research is crucial.

That's why research is crucial. That's why City of Hope is crucial.

By 2030, pancreatic cancer is expected to become the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, surpassing breast, prostate and colorectal cancers, according to a new study published this week in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. Liver cancer will be the third-leading cause of cancer-related death, researchers predicted.

Lung cancer is currently the No. 1 cause of cancer-related death in the United States and will maintain that distinction, according to the report. (City of Hope's Dan Raz, M.D., co-director of the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program, has much to say on how to save lives from lung cancer, specifically through lung cancer screening.)

As for pancreatic cancer, Joseph Kim, M.D., City of Hope surgical oncologist and head of upper gastrointestinal surgery, says researchers and physicians are working to change the grim outlook for such diseases.

“The fact that pancreatic cancer is going to move up on the list of number of cancer-related deaths is no surprise,” Kim acknowledged. “There has been a gradual increase of incidents year by year, and the lack of effective treatments would have been a good predictor of that.”

One reason that rates of pancreatic cancer have been steadily increasing is linked to the difficulty in diagnosing pancreatic tumors, leading to late-stage diagnoses.

“Therapies and treatments for pancreatic cancer are virtually ineffective at late-stage disease,” said Kim. “While there has been dramatic advances in many of the other cancers that we treat, there has been virtually none for pancreatic cancer.”

Kim said one current goal for pancreatic cancer specialists is to raise the survival rate for patients diagnosed with the disease to more than a year. “The other cancers, in the past couple of decades, have gone well past a year survival for patients with metastatic disease,” he said. “We’re still struggling to do that for pancreatic cancer.”

The new predictions are based on an analysis by researchers from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. They assessed trends in demographics and cancer incidence and death rates between 2006 and 2011 to project new trends for the next 15 years.

The researchers expect breast, prostate and lung cancers to remain as the top three cancer diagnoses in 2030. Colorectal cancer, which is currently the fourth-leading cancer diagnosis, will be replaced by thyroid cancer, followed by melanoma and uterine cancers.

The study’s authors noted that advances in screening, prevention and treatment can change cancer incidence and death rates, but that it will require a concerted effort by the research and health care communities.

And research is what sets City of Hope apart.

As Gagandeep Singh, M.D., head of hepatobiliary surgery at City of Hope, has noted: "At City of Hope we have ongoing efforts to improve medical and surgical therapies – with added values of pancreatic cancer research to help find a cure and stop this disease.”

A determination to improve medical and surgical therapies is a hallmark of City of Hope. Our reputation for scientific excellence – for advancing the world’s understanding of cancer and other life-threatening diseases – stems from our determination to pursue all possible therapies for our patients.

As an independent biomedical, treatment and education center, we're able to do this much more swiftly than many other institutions. Here, we have the infrastructure and the collaboration necessary to quickly move from bold, innovative concept to powerful new treatment.

So although the pancreatic cancer prediction may not be a surprise today, in the future, it may seem as if it should have been.


Learn more about pancreatic cancer treatment and research at City of Hope.

And watch Gagandeep Singh's webinar: "Surgical Advances for Pancreatic Cancer."


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