At about 50,000 cases per year, pancreatic cancer affects fewer people than other cancers but is often detected very late, when the disease has already spread outside the pancreas. By that point, effective treatment choices are minimal, and quality of life has begun to decline.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most challenging diseases to treat and study, so researchers need to be armed with more funding and resources to tackle this challenging and deadly disease.
There are no diagnostic tools for the early detection of pancreatic cancer, and post-diagnosis treatments are less effective than they are for other diseases. The overall five-year survival rate for patients with pancreatic cancer is only 9 percent.
Research is expensive, and often funds are not available to complete studies once started. Researchers in this field—and in society as a whole—must demand more for the fight against pancreatic cancer. Only the top eight of 100 grants submitted to the National Cancer Institute currently receive funding. This means that many compelling new ideas and approaches proposed by researchers are left unexplored.
Researchers can’t afford to duplicate efforts and double-spend, so collaboration must be used to augment their approach and resources need to be shared with colleagues. By sharing data as well as resources, they can ensure that their studies are moving beyond geographical and demographical barriers.
Participating in trials not only provides patients with opportunities to access the newest treatment options, but it also allows researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of these treatments rigorously. And there are a variety of clinical trials available. Additionally, these trials can provide the chance to understand why medications do not work for some patients, which allows researchers to better tailor treatment options to individual patients.
With improved funding, collaboration, and patient resources, there is hope to be able to close the gap in knowledge and help develop better ways to prevent, detect, and treat pancreatic cancer.
Opinion by: Zobeida Cruz-Monserrate, Ph.D., a pancreatic cancer researcher at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) in Columbus, Ohio. She is a member of the OSUCCC – James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Research Program.