Featured Image: Pancreatic Cancer. Photo Courtesy: Fotolia 2019

The annual Cancer Facts & Figures report published by the American Cancer Society (ACS) for the first time shows that the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer has increased from 9 to 10%. [1]

The updated data is based on the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-9 database which showed that while the five-year survival rate for the world’s deadliest cancer is improving, more Americans are being diagnosed yearly with this disease.

Growing interest from researchers as well as increased federal funding and grassroots advocacy efforts across the country, has contributed to an increasing number of treatment options, which resulted that more patients can be counted among pancreatic cancer survivors.

However, despite the good news, the Facts & Figures report also reveals that more people than ever before will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.[1]

In 2020, an estimated 57,600 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. According to the report, while pancreatic cancer is currently the 11th most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., it remains the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Each year, approximately 47,050 Americans are expected to die from the disease.

Risk factors
According to the American Cancer Society, cigarette smokers have about twice the risk of pancreatic cancer as never smokers. In addition, smokeless tobacco also increases risk.

Other risk factors include type 2 diabetes (T2DM), excess body weight, a family history of pancreatic cancer, and a personal history of chronic pancreatitis. Finally, heavy alcohol consumption may increase risk while patients with Lynch syndrome and certain other genetic syndromes, as well as BRCA1 and BRCA2mutation carriers, are also at increased risk of developing the disease.[1]

In most cases (93%) pancreatic cancer develops in the exocrine tissue of the pancreas, which makes enzymes to digest food. Endocrine tumors (7%), commonly referred to as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), develop in hormone-producing cells and have a younger median age at diagnosis and better prognosis.[1]

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), a grassroots organization focusing on finding a cure for pancreatic cancer by supporting a comprehensive approach to increase clinical trial initiatives and patient advocacy, has been focused on improving patient outcomes and increase overall survival.

“We are so grateful to the entire community of pancreatic cancer researchers, healthcare professionals, volunteers and advocates who have worked together alongside PanCAN to accelerate progress, but our fight is not over,” noted Julie Fleshman, JD, MBA, PanCAN’s president and Chief Executive Officer.

“While we are thrilled to see the five-year survival rate reach double digits, 10% is still the lowest survival rate of all major cancers, which is unacceptable. This underscores the continued urgency for funding, research and awareness to move the needle even further,” Fleshman added.

Accelerating progress
To support all pancreatic cancer patients and accelerate progress, PanCAN provides specific patient resources including a Clinical Trial Finder offering access to the most up-to-date and comprehensive pancreatic cancer clinical trial database in the United States. The organization also lists pancreatic cancer specialists and offers a Patient Registry, a global database of patient information to help advance research and improve patient care.

Know Your Tumor®
With the increasing availability of targeted therapies, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, which was established in 1999, has developed Know Your Tumor®, a serviced launched in 2014 to determine whether patients’ tumor biology and genetics can impact their treatment decisions and outcomes.

The service has helped thousands of patients with personalized reports with actionable findings, results that can influence that patient’s treatment options.

Finally, since 2003, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has awarded 173 grants to 170 scientists at 64 institutions, with a cumulative research investment projected to more than $104 million.

Reference
[1] Cancer Facts & Figures, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Georgia. Online. Last accessed January 8, 2019.