Jefferson Pancreatic Cancer Conference Feb. 24 highlights treatments, trials, vaccine research

(PHILADELPHIA) Pancreatic cancer is no longer the immediate death sentence that most people think it is.

"The public hears 'pancreatic cancer' and thinks there's little hope and there isn't much to do," says pancreatic cancer surgeon Charles Yeo, M.D., professor and chair of surgery at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. "The good news is, with new imaging techniques, better early detection, improved screening of high-risk groups, and new therapies on the horizon, we're actually making great progress when it comes to pancreatic cancer."

Pancreatic cancer, the fifth-leading cause of cancer death in this country, takes some 30,000 lives a year. Not too long ago, few lived for five years after diagnosis, says Dr. Yeo. Even now, only approximately 25 percent of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer who undergo successful surgical "resection" of their disease live at least five years. But recent figures give new hope: Of those who live for five years after surgical resection, some 55 percent will be alive at least another five years.

On Friday, February 24, 2006, pancreatic cancer experts from around the country will gather at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson to discuss the latest in surgery, animal models, clinical trials, treatments and immunotherapy at this year's Scientific and Clinical Update on Pancreatic Cancer. Jefferson is hosting the conference at its Bluemle Life Sciences Building, 233 S. 10th Street. (The conclave begins at 8:20AM in Room 101.)

Among the guest speakers is Elizabeth Jaffee, M.D., the Dana and Albert "Cubby" Broccoli Professor in Oncology and Pathology at Johns Hopkins University, who will discuss one of the most exciting areas of pancreatic cancer research: immunotherapy, or using the body's own immune system to fight cancer.

Dr. Jaffee and her colleagues have recently reported encouraging early results of a vaccine for pancreatic cancer. After two years into a study of 60 patients, the researchers found that 88 percent lived for one year and 76 percent for two years, a much higher percentage than those who didn't receive the vaccine in their treatment.

Jefferson's Dr. Yeo will speak about some of the latest results from recent clinical trials involving pancreatic cancer surgery. Evidence from one trial, he says, shows that a reduced version of the standard Whipple operation may be just as effective in treating the disease. The so-called "mini-Whipple" is somewhat less complicated and less risky.

"The recruitment of Dr Yeo, who is a national leader in pancreatic cancer surgery, the momentum of a substantial number of new clinical and research recruits, together with the talent already here at Jefferson, provides a unique opportunity for the Kimmel Cancer Center and Jefferson to take a national leadership position in diagnosis and new treatments for pancreatic cancer," says Richard Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson and professor and chair of cancer biology at Jefferson Medical College. "I believe the new approaches to cancer we are developing, including nanotechnology-based detection and delivery systems, will provide our cancer patients with a better quality of life – and that is why we are here!"

The Kimmel Cancer Center meeting is "an excellent one-day briefing of what's hot and exciting in research into pancreatic cancer," says Dr. Yeo. "And we'll get a good indication of the promising developments that are just down the road in treating it."

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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