January 4, 2012


Clinical Trials are Key to Doubling the Survival Rate for Pancreatic Cancer

MANHATTAN BEACH, CA (January 4, 2012) — Pancreatic cancer is among the deadliest cancers in the United States with a five-year relative survival rate of just six percent. As part of an effort to double the survival rate for the disease by 2020, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is calling attention to the need for increased participation in clinical trials. Clinical trials are vital to making progress and developing new treatments for any disease. In particular for pancreatic cancer, the lack of treatment options currently available for patients make clinical trials an extremely important part of the research process as scientists seek new, better treatment options that will ultimately increase survival.

“Clinical trials are especially important for pancreatic cancer because so few effective treatment options exist, which is reflected in the dire statistics for this disease. Through participation in clinical trials, patients have access to cutting edge research and are taking an active role in advancing pancreatic cancer research. Clinical trials pave the way to therapeutic breakthroughs.” said Julie Fleshman, president and CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network recommends that all patients consider clinical trials when exploring treatment options. Through the organization’s PanCAN Patient Services, a patient can receive a personalized eligibility search of all pancreatic cancer-specific clinical trials taking place nationwide to locate potential clinical trial options specific for that patient.

There are many pancreatic cancer trials taking place throughout the country. One example of something being tested in clinical trials is a new class of drugs called Hedgehog inhibitors. Hedgehog inhibitors may work in treating pancreatic cancer by improving the delivery of drugs to the actual tumor by decreasing the tumor’s stroma, the layer of tissue surrounding the tumor, and increasing the number of blood vessels in it. These inhibitors may also work by providing a way to attack cancer stem cells as the Hedgehog pathway seems to play a role in the development of these cells. Hedgehog inhibitors are a type of targeted cancer therapy. Hedgehog inhibitors and other types of targeted therapies are now under investigation in clinical trials for pancreatic cancer.

The preclinical laboratory work that led to the rationale for inhibiting Hedgehog as a way to treat cancer was conducted in the laboratories of David Tuveson, MD, PhD (Chair, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Scientific Advisory Board and recipient of our 2003 Career Development Award) and Kenneth Olive, PhD (recipient of our 2011 Tempur-Pedic® Retailers Career Development Award).

“Based on the positive results of past clinical trials, there are three FDA approved drugs currently available to treat pancreatic adenocarcinoma, the most common type of pancreatic cancer. However, given the fact that 94 percent of pancreatic cancer patients succumb to the disease within five years of diagnosis, more treatment options are desperately needed to improve patient outcomes,” added Fleshman. “Current clinical trials, such as the ones testing Hedgehog inhibitors, bring a great deal of hope to the pancreatic cancer community. It’s critically important for patients to enroll in clinical trials, both for themselves and for future patients.”

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer related death in the United States. In 2011, more than 44,000 Americans were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and nearly 38,000 died from the disease. In fact, 74 percent of patients die within the first year of their diagnoses because the disease is typically caught at a late stage and is very resistant to current treatment options.

To learn more about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network visit www.pancan.org

About the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is the national organization creating hope in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure. The organization is leading the way to increase the survival rate for people diagnosed with this devastating disease through a bold initiative–The Vision of Progress: Double the Pancreatic Cancer Survival Rate by 2020. Together, we can know, fight and end pancreatic cancer by intensifying our efforts to heighten awareness, raise funds for comprehensive private research, and advocate for dedicated federal research to advance early diagnostics, better treatments and increase chances of survival.


Jennifer Reeves Rosen
Senior Manager, Public Relations
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
Direct: 310-706-3362