Pancreatic Cancer Symposium to Outline Challenges, Examine Treatment Paths

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive and deadly malignancies, claiming upwards of 40,000 people each year.

One the major problems with this disease is that it’s often found too late. Despite improvements in surgery and chemotherapy, over 90% of patients diagnosed eventually succumb to the disease.

Several experts from the University of Chicago will gather May 7 for a symposium entitled: Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer for People at risk, sponsored by the Michael Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation.

The Rolfe Foundation is hosting a 5-K Walk/run, called Dash for Detection, May 31, to raise money for pancreatic cancer research. Here are more details on the run.

Kevin Roggin, MD

The goal of the evening event, which is open to the public and is being held at the James Tyree Auditorium at Mesirow Financial in Chicago, is to identify the scope of the problem, share insight into why pancreatic cancer is so deadly, and discuss different strategies to assist in early diagnosis.

“The ways of improving survival in this disease is to improve methods of early detection, develop new therapies, or to identify patients who are at high risk for pancreatic cancer and treat them before the disease has spread beyond the pancreas,” said Kevin Roggin, MD, associate professor of surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine, and a surgical oncologist specializing in the treatment of complex upper gastrointestinal tract cancers, including  stomach, pancreas, and liver.

Irving Waxman, MD

Headlining the panel is Irving Waxman, MD, the Sara and Harold Lincoln Thompson Professor of Medicine and Surgery and one of the preeminent authorities on endoscopic ultrasound and state-of-the-art endoscopic procedures to treat a variety of gastrointestinal cancers.
He is also director of the Center for Endoscopic Research and Therapeutics, which focuses on new imaging modalities for the detection of early gastrointestinal cancer; minimally invasive endoscopic resection of superficial gastrointestinal malignancies; and combined endo-surgical minimally invasive interventions.

Andres Gelrud, MD, MSSc

The evening event is moderated by Andres Gelrud, MD, MMSc, associate professor of Medicine and a clinical gastroenterologist, who provides care for patients with acute, recurrent acute and chronic pancreatitis, as well as treatment of complications from pancreatitis.

He also has expertise in interventional endoscopy, a minimally invasive procedure used to diagnose and treat problems of the digestive tract — including gastrointestinal cancers.

Roggin coordinates a multidisciplinary research team of pancreatic cancer physicians and scientists from the University of Chicago and affiliated institutions.

The team is actively investigating new molecular markers associated with the development of pancreatic cancer, utilizing geriatric assessments to estimate the risk of pancreatic surgery, and using genomic analysis to develop new therapies for pancreatic cancer.

Furthermore, part of the team’s vision is to coordinate all this under one roof. And that will be a key part of the discussion May 7.

“People travel great distances to see our physicians,” Roggin said.

The goal of a center would be to offer patients a highly efficient and condensed visit: they would see a surgical oncologist, or a gastroenterologist, get whatever CT scans or other imaging that is needed, have a biopsy done if that’s warranted, and conclude with a wrap-up consultation with the professionals involved in treatment – all in a day or two rather than the weeks such procedures and consultations can take elsewhere.

“This is a vision of how we see a center like this working in the near future, ” Roggin said. “I am encouraged by the progress we’ve made and look forward to helping our medical center’s leaders implement this program in any way that I can.”

The Rolfe Foundation has raised more than $6 million to help fund pancreatic cancer research, generally, and Roggin’s work in particular.

Through Rolfe support and commitment, Roggin and his team have been able to create a prospective biospecimen repository and database to support these translational research programs.

These form the essential building blocks that have led to the Chicago Pancreatic Cancer Initiative, a project at the University of Chicago that includes Roggin, who is a co-investigator, and fellow UChicago experts Kevin White, PhD, the James and Karen Frank Family Professor of Human Genetics and Ecology & Evolution and Senior Fellow at the Computation Institute, and William Dale, MD, PhD, associate professor of Medicine and Chief, Section of Geriatrics & Palliative Medicine.

Roggin and his colleagues hope to use the power of Big Data to identify  genomic changes that can lead to better predictions for disease and potential targets for therapeutics, and to leverage this new knowledge and information across increasingly larger populations.

“We think the team we’ve assembled under the Chicago Pancreatic Cancer Initiative has all the components in place to make difference over the next three to five years,” Roggin said. “Our vision is to work together to fight the common enemy, pancreatic cancer. “

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