Pancreatic Cancer Action Network funding assists University of Pennsylvania researcher in pursuit of early detection methods

El Segundo 10 December 2003A major scientific discovery, funded in part by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), may revolutionize the detection and treatment of one of the most deadliest cancers known to man, pancreatic cancer. David A. Tuveson, MD, PhD, of the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, led the team that developed and characterized the first animal model that describes the creation and characterization for ductal pancreatic cancer. His discovery provides insight into the development of future diagnostic tests for early disease detection as well as potential therapeutic strategies. The research will be published on-line in Cancer Cell.


In May 2003, Dr. Tuveson received a Career Development Award for early-career scientists engaged in pancreatic cancer research from PanCAN and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). The two-year grant provides $100.000 of direct research expenses.

"Attempts to identify humans with early pancreatic cancer have been largely unsuccessful due to the anatomic location of the pancreas and the small size of the presumed precursor lesions, termed pancreatic intra-epithelial neoplasia (PanIN)", stated Dr. Tuveson. "Working with Drs. Emanuel F. Petricoin and Lance A. Liotta and other colleagues at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), we have uncovered a molecular signature of PanIN in the serum of mice that is highly predictive for the presence of early pancreatic cancer. Support from the AACR-PanCAN career development award helped make this possible."

"This is a clear indicator that increased funding will lead to better detection and treatment methods and, eventually, to a cure", stated Julie Fleshman, PanCAN Executive Director. "The groundbreaking research by Dr. Tuveson opens the door for others interested in studying pancreatic cancer, and PanCAN will continue to support their efforts."

"This gives us cause for hope at a time when pancreatic cancer research has been almost non-existent", stated Paula Kim, President and Founder of PanCAN, a national patient advocacy organisation for the pancreatic cancer community. "Our goal is to make significant strides against this disease so that in the near future, the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer will no longer be a virtual death sentence." Earlier this year, Paula Kim testified about pancreatic cancer before the subcommittee on Labour, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations.

The breakthrough is particularly important due to the aggressiveness of pancreatic cancer, the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States for men and women. Pancreatic cancer carries a 99 percent fatality rate; however, despite this statistic, the federal government invests less money on pancreatic cancer than any other leading cancer. In 2002, the NCI spent 33,1 million dollars, less than 1 percent of its cancer research budget, on pancreatic cancer research.

Approximately 30.700 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year in the United States and 30.000 people will die from the disease. Pancreatic cancer has the number 1 fatality rate of all cancers. Pancreatic cancer is the number 4 cancer killer in the United States amongst both men and women. The 99 percent mortality rate for pancreatic cancer is the highest of any cancer.

Pancreatic cancer does not discriminate by age, gender or race and only 4 percent of patients will survive beyond 5 years. The average life expectancy after diagnosis with metastatic disease is just 3 to 6 months. An estimated 33,1 million dollars was spent on pancreatic cancer research in 2002 of the NCI's cancer research budget. This is just a mere 0,8 of 1 percent of the NCI's 4,176 billion dollar cancer research budget for 2002.

Despite the especially lethal nature of pancreatic cancer, the research spending per pancreatic cancer patient is only $1092, the lowest of any leading cancer. No effective early detection methods have been developed, there are minimal treatment options available and very little research is under way due to limited research funding.

PanCAN is a non-profit organisation founded in 1999 by surviving family members of individuals who died of pancreatic cancer. Chartered as a grassroots organisation of advocacy for pancreatic cancer patients and their families, PanCAN currently has volunteers and members throughout the United States and around the world. PanCAN is the first, national public-benefit advocacy organisation for the pancreatic cancer community. The organisation works to focus national attention on the need to find a cure for pancreatic cancer, and provides public and professional education embracing the urgent need for more research, effective treatments, prevention programmes and early detection methods.

Leslie Versweyveld

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