2023 PANCAN IMPACT REPORT
One of my favorite things is seeing the PanCAN mission in action when we’re together.
It’s in those moments that I especially feel the momentum of this movement you’ve created. It’s clear how the “action” and “network” of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network go hand in hand.
At PanCAN PurpleStride, where the spirited sea of purple stretches across the country and enthusiastic volunteers raise their hands to do more.
At scientific conferences, where the most brilliant minds in pancreatic cancer research are excited to share the new discoveries you’ve helped fund.
In congressional meetings, where your unforgettable stories about why you take action for patients lead to more federal research funding.
In local communities, where you tell me you’re more empowered after finding PanCAN and that we’ve been there during your toughest times.
This is what it looks like when we all work together toward our vision of a world where every patient with pancreatic cancer thrives.
You’re not on the sidelines waiting for someone else to do the hard work. You’re taking bold action on the frontlines. And the time we spend together always reminds me that no one is alone in the pancreatic cancer experience OR in our collective commitment to change the status quo.
You will see your progress toward a better world for patients on the pages of PanCAN’s Impact Report 2023. How you’re investing in those fighting now – through free support services, opportunities to participate in clinical trials and so much more – and in the future by funding leading-edge research to advance early detection options and better treatments.
At PanCAN, we put the patient at the center of every decision we make and every action we take.
In doing so, we will achieve our vision. And we’ll do it faster and better than anyone could have imagined because we’re all working together.
Julie Fleshman, JD, MBA
President and CEO
A Family Legacy in Action!
When Meredith Brunelle sees her 5-year-old niece, Toby, she thinks of the remarkable woman she’s named after – Meredith’s mother Toby Berke, who passed away of pancreatic cancer in 2003.
Meredith’s maternal grandfather and great-grandmother also died of cancer around the same age as her mother did.
“I had a feeling pancreatic cancer was going to come for me,” Meredith said. “So, I wanted to be on top of it.”
That’s why Meredith took action and started supporting PanCAN two decades ago – to help ensure future patients might have a better outcome than her mom did. It’s also why she is including a gift to PanCAN in her will and joined PanCAN’s Micki Love Society. It’s her way to leave a lasting legacy and ensure that pancreatic cancer patients, now and in the future, have the support they need.
In 2019, a doctor found a cyst on Meredith’s pancreas. Meredith told him about her family history and enrolled in a pancreatic cancer screening program.
In the spring of 2020, Meredith was scheduled for a follow-up MRI as part of that screening program. This time, imaging revealed a tumor – stage I pancreatic cancer.
Again, Meredith took immediate action.
She had surgery to remove half her pancreas and spleen, along with chemotherapy. Her last treatment was over two years ago.
Today Meredith is also a monthly donor through PanCAN’s Circle of Hope and a member of PanCAN’s Partners in Progress, recognizing supporters who give $1,000 or more annually. Through her philanthropy, Meredith strives to make a meaningful impact that will benefit patients long into the future.
With every donation to PanCAN, Meredith remembers her mom, thinks about young Toby, and imagines a brighter future for all pancreatic cancer patients.
I want to support the good that PanCAN does – they have been at the forefront, from funding research and new discoveries to being there for patients and caregivers. We used PanCAN Patient Services when my mom was diagnosed, and I’m grateful that I knew exactly where to get support when the disease affected me.
I’m giving back for those we’ve lost, for my niece and for the future.”
Survivor, Advocate, Caregiver
Collaboration in Action!
Thanks to you, PanCAN is bringing together some of the best scientists from across the country for a project that has one goal: accelerating new treatments for pancreatic cancer.
Called the Therapeutic Accelerator Collaborative, the project is unique in that it allows top researchers from five academic institutions to work directly with Verastem Oncology – the biopharmaceutical company awarded PanCAN’s inaugural $3.8 million Therapeutic Accelerator Award – to share information, address challenges and make the best use of every single resource we have to discover potential breakthroughs for patients with pancreatic cancer.
Verastem’s early-phase clinical trial tests an investigational combination of drugs that targets the most frequently mutated protein in pancreatic cancer, KRAS. It also may break down some of the dense tissue surrounding a pancreatic tumor, another challenge unique to pancreatic cancer that has historically made it difficult to treat. As the trial continues, the Collaborative meets to explore opportunities to learn more and dig deeper. The goal is to not only test the new drug combination, but also to understand why it works the way it does.
This is where collaboration is key: Every scientist brings a different perspective to the table, which means they can more fully understand results from the trial and why certain patients respond and others don’t, acting quickly to incorporate studies that may open up new lines of research in the future.
The 2022 Therapeutic Accelerator Award – made possible by 1440 Foundation, the Gail V. Coleman-Kenneth M. Bruntel Research Fund, and the Lyda Hill Foundation – and the Therapeutic Accelerator Collaborative Awards support the pipeline of drugs entering Precision PromiseSM, PanCAN’s groundbreaking adaptive clinical trial. Our vision is to fund early-stage studies of new drugs to integrate into Precision Promise for later-stage testing. This approach could eventually lead to FDA approval of urgently needed new therapies.
With your critical support, we are attacking head-on the idea that pancreatic cancer research is risky and expensive – by doing it differently. And we are doing it all in the name of bringing better treatment options to patients faster.
Because of you, PanCAN continues to fund innovative research grants and work on revolutionary clinical projects – all of which are fueling progress for patients.
With your support, we have invested more than $208 million into research over the past 20 years.
Since 2003, you’ve funded 236 grants to 217 scientists at 78 institutions, building our robust Community for Progress.
Friendship in Action!
Leslie Gaynor and Phyllis Bolotin had an instant connection when they met – a connection that led to a nearly two-decade friendship before Phyllis died of pancreatic cancer in 2012.
During Phyllis’ illness, the two had contacted PanCAN and were able to speak with other people who had stage IV pancreatic cancer. These conversations offered much hope and support.
To celebrate the giving, kind and thoughtful person that Phyllis was, and to bring more hope to future patients, Leslie generously made a significant donation to PanCAN last year in Phyllis’ name. The gift helped fund a noted pancreatic cancer scientist’s research project for another year.
The 2022 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Catalyst Grant, funded by Leslie Gaynor in memory of Phyllis Bolotin, extended a research grant previously awarded by PanCAN to Gregory Beatty, MD, PhD, at University of Pennsylvania, to continue his study of immunotherapy as a treatment for pancreatic cancer.
Phyllis’ own legacy of hope, positivity and giving can continue through Dr. Beatty’s research. Phyllis loved helping people, and if this research can bring about a new treatment that gives people with pancreatic cancer more time, I know that would make her very happy. I’m humbled that I’ve been able to fund research and I’m excited to see if my gift leads to any discoveries.”
I am extremely thankful to the PanCAN donors who have supported our research. It is only through this type of support that we can make new strides in our fight against pancreatic cancer. This support has fostered my career development, helped my research team grow, and allowed my program to explore new areas of research that we are hopeful will ultimately help improve the outcomes of patients.”
Gregory Beatty, MD, PhD
PanCAN was the first organization dedicated to fighting pancreatic cancer in a comprehensive way. Because of you, we’re still in that fight. From funding critical research and supporting patients throughout their pancreatic cancer journey, to advocating on Capitol Hill for increased federal funding and bringing communities together on one big day – your support fuels progress.
The challenges faced by someone diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are daunting. Where to go, who to see, what to do ... the list goes on and on. So, when I heard about an organization that was dedicated to helping patients ... I was sold. I began to tell every patient with pancreatic cancer I saw in my practice about PanCAN and what a great resource they are for reliable, accurate information. That was almost 25 years ago. And as PanCAN has grown, so has their support of patients, families and researchers working in the field.”
Mace Rothenberg, MD
Member, PanCAN Board of Directors
Advocacy in Action!
This year, hundreds of PanCAN advocates like you took action on Capitol Hill by calling, emailing and meeting with members of Congress to urge them to increase federal funding for pancreatic cancer research – and your collective voices were heard!
This past year:
- There were overall funding increases for the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.
- For the third year in a row, you secured $15 million for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Program at the Department of Defense.
- More than 1,000 PanCAN advocates contacted Congress for the first time this year during PanCAN Call on Congress Day 2023.
Your advocacy is important because research leads to new discoveries about the disease, new early detection methods and new treatments.
It’s how we change outcomes and end pancreatic cancer for good. Just ask Marty Hynes, a pancreatic cancer survivor PanCAN volunteer and retired researcher who ran chemotherapy clinical trials.
The amount of money that we put into pancreatic cancer as a nation is woefully low. If I want to live, I’ve got to be out there advocating for a change in funding.
My background is extremely helpful when I’m having conversations with our members of Congress and explaining what we need to invest in to make a difference. Even though these research activities are expensive, we need to look at them as an investment because they will pay huge dividends in saving lives.”
Healing in Action!
During the overwhelming weeks and months after Ruben Vela’s diagnosis of stage III pancreatic cancer, PanCAN Patient Services became a lifeline for Ruben and his wife, Patty. They stayed in touch with their Case Manager throughout their journey, talking through everything from terminology to treatment options.
“We needed an extra person to tell us, ‘Yes, you heard correctly,’ or, ‘Yes, this is going to happen,’” Patty said. “Because we were going down an unknown road and hitting bumps, we needed extra protection. I would call PanCAN to get reassurance.”
They navigated a total of 12 rounds of chemotherapy before Ruben became eligible for the Whipple procedure. When he finally got the go-ahead for surgery three days before Christmas in 2019 (what Ruben called a “Christmas miracle”), Ruben and Patty were elated but knew he faced a long road to recovery, more chemotherapy and many more hurdles. Friends and family in their hometown of Laredo, Texas, helped them make it through — along with PanCAN Patient Services. They once again turned to PanCAN at every twist and turn.
“His job was to get better,” Patty said. “My job was to find answers. Because honestly, that’s what we needed – answers.”
Now, grateful for the crucial support they received, the Velas are bringing others into the PanCAN community. At PanCAN PurpleStride 2023 San Antonio, Ruben was the featured speaker. With members of Team Ruben’s Warriors in the crowd, he told those who faced a similar diagnosis to hold on to hope – and reach out for support.
“I said that if they feel they’re alone, they’re not alone,” he said. “There’s always help out there.”
Reaching More Patients and Families This Year,
Thanks to You:
People joined PanCAN
PanCAN Patient Services
interactions to date
Equality in Action!
PanCAN is committed to ensuring that all patients with pancreatic cancer have equitable access to healthcare. Your support has allowed us to host events that shine a light on progress – as well as talk about what still needs to happen to make that goal a reality. For Black History Month, we brought together a panel of community members and experts for an empowering discussion about health equity, access to clinical trials, bias in the healthcare system and more. Hosted by pancreatic cancer survivor and PanCAN volunteer Teona Ducre, the event touched on many important themes and powerful testimonials.
Talking about the importance of equitable access to genetic testing is crucial so that we can ensure that the Black community has access to the promises and benefits of what those tests can offer.”
Licensed Certified Genetic Counselor
I strongly believe that many of the initiatives PanCAN funds are contributing to the consistent increase in the survival rate for patients who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.”
Member, PanCAN Board of Directors
We have to focus on the healthcare institutions and the healthcare providers, making sure we are attentive to the needs and wants of patients so that they have enhanced trust in the institution. We want them to feel like they have a committed relationship with the healthcare team and that we will take care of them.”
We continue to strive to improve the services we provide and make sure we’re reaching communities that are disproportionately impacted by pancreas cancer. We should always approach these topics with humility, compassion and with an openness to truly learn from the community.”
PanCAN Patient Services Director of Research and Education
Volunteers in Action!
Volunteers take action year-round in their communities to advance PanCAN’s mission. Rob Caruano was working in oncology patient advocacy for a pharmaceutical company when he received his own cancer diagnosis. After a bout of extreme abdominal pain, Rob went to the ER but was turned away because the hospital was overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. He had to push again and again for appointments and scans before finally receiving his diagnosis: pancreatic cancer.
Rob looked for a patient advocacy group and found PanCAN. He and his husband reached out for resources and support from Patient Services. Soon after undergoing surgery and completing chemotherapy, Rob contacted PanCAN again, this time to ask about giving back as a volunteer.
Rob’s motivation stems from his professional partnerships with patient advocacy groups as well as his personal experiences as a pancreatic cancer patient. He was surprised to find that there weren’t more treatment options available and wants to change that for others.
As a volunteer Advocacy Chair for PanCAN, Rob takes an active role in changing the future of pancreatic cancer. He shares his story of self-advocacy with local media and also leads a volunteer committee for the New York City Affiliate.
He is committed to sharing his story as a survivor and advocating for increased federal funding for pancreatic cancer, saying, “My day job is working in oncology advocacy, so my natural inclination was to find the right advocacy group. PanCAN was the right group for me. I gravitated to the advocacy role. I think that’s where I can have the greatest impact in moving the needle.”
I feel like I survived this for a reason, and I really want to do what I can to make a difference and make things better for those who follow.”
Survivor, PanCAN Volunteer
across the country
In leadership and
Creativity in Action!
You gave it your all this past year! You hosted events, created tributes for loved ones and used social media to spread the word and raise funds to fuel PanCAN’s vital resources and services. Thanks to your ongoing support, we also became an Official Charity Partner for the TCS New York City Marathon, with exciting plans to expand our marathon program to other locations in the future.
This year, two long-time Wage Hope My Way Fundraisers reached an extraordinary milestone: each has raised more than $100,000 with their events.
PARS for Pancreatic Cancer Golf Outing
Sarah Smith has hosted the PARS for Pancreatic Cancer Golf Outing since 2014 in memory of her dad, Ken Carstensen, who passed away in 2013. This year was the 10th annual outing.
I’m beyond grateful to our golfers, volunteers, sponsors and community supporters – truly why the outing is so successful. I will continue to keep my father’s memory alive by raising awareness and funds for PanCAN, so no other grandchildren have to experience life without a grandfather.”
Joe Morris Memorial Flounder Tournament
Since 2017, Amanda Morris has held the Joe Morris Memorial Flounder Tournament in honor of her husband, who passed away in 2016. They owned a bait and tackle shop and Joe loved teaching his customers everything he knew about fishing.
Pancreatic cancer took my husband much too early in his life. I continue the tournament in his honor to raise money for research and to find the cure for pancreatic cancer.”
Our heartfelt gratitude to Sarah, Amanda and all of our Wage Hope My Way fundraisers for their commitment, creativity and passion.
The year in numbers:
Raised through Wage Hope
My Way events and
social media fundraising
Wage Hope My Way
events and tributes
Active social media
Stepping into Action!
On Saturday, April 29, 2023, striders at 60 events across the nation stepped into action at PanCAN PurpleStride, the ultimate walk to end pancreatic cancer.
Thanks to the generosity of the Judy and Peter Blum Kovler Foundation and Melanie and Richard Lundquist, striders participated in two, first-of-their-kind matching gift campaigns that were hugely successful! The dedication of more than 61,000 striders, combined with impactful matching gift opportunities, led to the highest-grossing PurpleStride in the history of PanCAN, raising more than $17 million to support PanCAN’s programs and services.
I feel proud and excited that our team goes all out to raise as much as we can. Seeing the UCSD team and the San Diego Affiliate grow each year is gratifying because it shows that our hard work is making a difference.”
My wife and I were drowning in a sea of emotions – that’s when we realized we couldn’t control my diagnosis or my son’s gene mutation – but we did find something we could control. We registered for PurpleStride Houston and formed Team Operation KPCA (Kick Pancreatic Cancer’s A**). Through our fundraising, we have raised over $69,000. Together, we will KPCA!”
J.R. White, Survivor and Co-Captain for Team Operation KPCA
I fundraise and participate in PurpleStride New York City to spread awareness of all the resources PanCAN offers to help patients beat pancreatic cancer and to be with survivors and their families celebrating their milestones. It also helps me celebrate my friend – a sister, really – who succumbed to the disease. Now, her faith and love continue through her family and me.”
Noila Johnson, PanCAN Volunteer and Captain of Team Love and Happiness
For patients with pancreatic cancer and their support team, walking in PurpleStride Atlanta helps affirm a positive outlook on their treatment journey – at a time when they can be overwhelmed with fear and anxiety, they choose to take a deep breath and take the next step forward. It is with thousands of small steps that each patient can improve their quality of life and survival, and that progress in research and prognosis can be made.”
Malini Sur, MD, Member of Team Northside Hospital Cancer Institute
Member, PanCAN Board of Directors
After the loss of my mother, Zola Murray, on August 28, 2022, I sought out a way to honor her and keep her memory alive. PanCAN PurpleStride gave me a sense of purpose. I will never forget arriving at PurpleStride Louisiana 2023 and seeing all the participants in purple, unified by a common cause. As I gear up for PurpleStride 2024, I know my mother is looking down on me, cheering me on as I take steps to raise awareness and further research.”
Marquesa Murray, PanCAN Volunteer and Team Captain of Zola Mae’s Warriors
Ambassadors in Action!
Our PanCAN ambassadors reach wide audiences to spread PanCAN’s mission and vision. We’re grateful for everything they do on behalf of patients and their families.
Actor, director and PanCAN ambassador Jonathan Frakes lost his brother, Daniel, to pancreatic cancer in 1997. Daniel was more than just a brother – he was Jonathan’s best friend.
“It was quite shocking – and still is – to not have him as part of my life,” said Jonathan.
Now, Jonathan uses his fame – he played the role of Commander William Riker in the television series “Star Trek: The Next Generation” – to honor his brother’s memory through his work with PanCAN, raising funds and awareness.
This year, Jonathan was the face of our Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month campaign in November, including #GivingTuesday, and for the third consecutive year, raised funds for his PanCAN PurpleStride team, Trek Against Pancreatic Cancer, with his “Star Trek” costars, 19-year survivor Kitty Swink, Armin Shimerman and John Billingsley.
Jonathan wants his dedication to inspire hope for other families faced with pancreatic cancer. A fitting tribute to his brother, who Jonathan described as “funny, intelligent, delightful ... and greatly missed.”
Thank You, PanCAN Ambassadors!
A big PanCAN thank you to some of our passionate public figures who spread awareness and raised funds this year to help patients thrive.
Lisa Niemi Swayze
*PanCAN mourns the loss of Ruschell Boone, who passed away on September 3, 2023.
**not pictured Emily and Nicky Trebek
A Tradition of Giving in Action!
Jeff and Shary Moulton understand the power of giving back. Since they started giving to PanCAN 10 years ago, they’ve seen the pancreatic cancer survival rate increase, learned about research discoveries and read many inspiring survivor stories.
Giving is important because Jeff lost his mother, Betty, to pancreatic cancer in 2013. Shary lost her sister, Leslie, just four years later.
Jeff and Shary support PanCAN in various ways – including through a donor-advised fund (DAF), which allows them to give appreciated stock to fund their DAF and direct grants to support causes like PanCAN.
Jeff and Shary grew up in families with parents who instilled the importance of giving back.
The Moultons used PanCAN Patient Services when Betty was diagnosed, at the recommendation of her physician. They received compassionate support from a PanCAN Case Manager, as well as information about the disease and treatment options. When Leslie was diagnosed, the family knew where to turn and again, PanCAN helped.
The couple has supported PanCAN PurpleStride St. Louis by walking, fundraising, donating and rallying friends and family to join their Team STOP (Stamp Out Pancreatic Cancer). It’s a family affair – Shary’s siblings are involved in their local PanCAN PurpleStride and volunteer affiliates in St. Louis and San Antonio. Jeff and Shary’s twin daughters have participated in PurpleStride, too.
Jeff and Shary are members of PanCAN’s Partners in Progress, a group of donors who contribute $1,000 or more every year. They also give during every PanCAN match challenge – as do Jeff’s siblings – knowing their donation will be doubled and have twice the impact on pancreatic cancer patients.
“We do what we can to make everyone aware of this great cause,” Jeff said, “and hopefully that will inspire others to give back, too.”
We want our children to see that the spirit of giving – both time and money – is really important.”
Our Partners in Action!
Nestlé Health Science
Olympus Corp. of the Americas
Faeth Therapeutics Foundation Medicine
Nestlé Health Science
Olympus Corp. of the Americas
PanCAN Volunteer Leadership
Your Gifts in Action!
PanCAN is dedicated to using your gifts wisely and maintaining full transparency. You put your trust in us, and we take that very seriously.
For the 18th consecutive year, we received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. Only 21 of the more than 9,000 organizations rated have received this distinction with the same consistency.
You are fueling progress and hope for patients with pancreatic cancer.
Patients and families need options in the fight against this terrible disease – you’re making that possible.
You’re accelerating bold research and clinical initiatives that hold immense promise for pancreatic cancer. Thanks to you, PanCAN invested more than $34 million in research this past year – our largest ever single-year research investment.
Last year, PanCAN Patient Services provided personalized support and resources to 59,000+ patients and caregivers – more than ever before – when they need it most.
You are connecting patients with the latest treatment advances. Patients and caregivers used PanCAN’s Clinical Trial Finder to perform more than 9,000 clinical trial searches.
Your support also allowed us to add a new resource to PanCAN Patient Services: Patient Navigators, who provide personalized support to patients with the most urgent or complex needs, and those who live in underserved areas and have limited access to healthcare services.
Thank you for seeing the enormous potential that lies ahead and believing with us that there’s hope.
Skip Viragh, one of the country’s most influential investment fund innovators, was known for taking big risks and always setting the bar higher. Soon after Skip’s death from pancreatic cancer in 2003, in honor of his legacy and his commitment to helping others, his family started making gifts to PanCAN.
Skip’s legacy lives on through his family’s generous donations, which now total more than $70 million – an unprecedented amount for PanCAN.
This year, the Viragh family made a transformational $25 million gift to PanCAN to accelerate critical research initiatives – including our Precision Promise clinical trial, our Early Detection Initiative and our Therapeutic Accelerator Award – that can lead to earlier detection of the disease and better treatment options for patients.
PanCAN has a bold vision to create a world in which every patient with pancreatic cancer will thrive, and Skip, who was equally bold, would be aligned with this vision.
In the words of Skip, “Let’s find a cure, and hurry up!”