An estimated 46,420 people in the United States will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2014. Fortunately, research experts at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) are constantly innovating to find new ways to treat the disease.
The pancreas is a gland deep in the abdomen that is responsible for two main things: regulating blood sugar and secreting enzymes that help digest food.
Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer has few good treatment options.
“There is no routine cancer, and pancreatic cancer is very particular in that regard,” says Tanios Bekaii-Saab, MD, a medical oncologist specializing in pancreatic cancer at the OSUCCC – James. “Pancreatic cancer is surrounded by a fortress of scar tissue and inflammatory cells that essentially prevents the entry of chemotherapy or other forms of therapy to attack the cancer cells. It makes it incredibly tough to treat with chemotherapy, radiation or any other form of therapy.”
For the past two and a half years, experts at the OSUCCC – James have been researching alternative methods for treating early-stage pancreatic cancer. “We have led a study to look at an aggressive regimen in pancreatic cancer composed of three chemotherapy drugs, modified to minimize the toxicities, followed by a very focused, shortened course of radiation to cut down on the risk of toxicity,” says Bekaii-Saab.
The study has resulted in from 50 percent to 70 percent of trial participants having pancreatic surgery to remove their cancer. These patients previously were unqualified for surgery.
“We went from ten percent likelihood of getting to a cure, or potential for a cure,” Bekaii-Saab says, “to more than fifty percent who would be able to do that with this regimen.”
To learn more about pancreatic treatments and clinical trials at the OSUCCC – James, visit cancer.osu.edu or call 800-293-5066.