Pancreas Matters letter January 2013, Jordan Berlin, MD

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Dear Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Friends:

A new year is upon us, and I am encouraged that the clinical environment for pancreatic cancer continues to make headway.

The first example involves Celgene Corporation’s recent announcement that in their recently completed clinical trial, their drug Abraxane, when combined with gemcitabine, showed a statistical improvement in overall survival in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer. The supporting data is expected to be released next week and should provide illumination to this announcement, perhaps changing the way that we approach treatment for pancreatic cancer patients.

Secondly, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, once again, is forging an awareness campaign for National Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Trials Awareness Month in January. This continues many months of concentrated effort to bring attention to not only the availability of clinical trials and the necessity of them in making treatment progress, but the fact that for many pancreatic cancer patients, participation in a clinical trial may be their best option.

Due to the strategic outreach from this organization, the requests for personalized clinical trials searches through its PanCAN Patient Services Case Managers has more than doubled in the last year. This is a critical achievement and highlights another step on our path for progress. Patients who are willing to participate in a trial, and doctors recommending trials to their patients, move science forward.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is the enormous achievement made with the passing of the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, formerly known as the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act. This is the culmination of five years of stalwart and unceasing work by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, its advocates and volunteers to educate their elected officials in Washington, D.C., about pancreatic cancer.

In addition, the final bill is the result of countless hours of work by the dedicated and tireless bill sponsors, Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), to keep the bill moving even when obstacles got in the way. This bill represents an unprecedented milestone in the history of pancreatic cancer. It is the first substantive legislation for pancreatic cancer and will require the National Cancer Institute to evaluate its current efforts in researching the disease and focus on ways to improve outcomes.

As a physician who treats pancreatic cancer patients with regularity, I see what hope can do to lighten the burden of treatment challenges. Or give patients a reason to fight on. Our path to achieve a magnificent shift in the early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer is getting closer. One day, through research and clinical trials, we will get a result that dramatically impacts treatment success. In the meantime, we all have a role to play in keeping up this momentum.

I wish for you all a new year of promise, peace and hope.


Jordan Berlin, MD
Medical Advisory Board Chair
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Ingram Professor of Medicine
Co-Director, GI Oncology, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center