As you’ve no doubt heard by now, actor Patrick Swayze died yesterday at age 57 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. In March, blog founder Jeremy Manier interviewed University of Chicago Medical Center physician Dr. Irving Waxman about pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest and hardest to treat cancers. The challenge, as Waxman explains, is twofold – the symptoms of pancreatic cancer typically do not present until the disease is in advanced stages, and the organ’s location deep behind the abdomen makes makes surgical treatment more difficult. The statistics are sobering: even with treatment, only about 5% of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive 5 years.
But doctors are hopeful that the momentum could be shifting in the battle against pancreatic cancer. “Smart chemotherapy” with less severe side effects, new imaging techniques to detect pancreatic cancer in its early stages, and new drug treatments – a study released just yesterday found that an already-existing diabetes medication may be effective in combination with chemotherapy for selectively killing tumor cells.
Here again is the interview with Dr. Waxman where he discusses the clinical challenges of pancreatic cancer and some of the promising frontiers of research to reduce those challenges.