June 27, 2013


Pancreatic Cancer Working Group Recommends Four New Research Initiatives to Help Speed Advancements

MANHATTAN BEACH, CA (June 27, 2013) — The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has long advocated to ensure that there is a national strategic plan and accountability for making progress towards improving the survival rate of pancreatic cancer. This includes working with the U.S. Congress on the passage of the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, which was signed into law by President Obama earlier this year. Today, the organization commends the National Cancer Institute (NCI), under the leadership of Harold E. Varmus, M.D., for taking the first step toward implementing the statute by issuing a portion of the report required by the Act.

The report entitled “Pancreatic Cancer: Scanning the Horizon for Focused Interventions,” was made public earlier this week by the NCI, and includes four recommended research initiatives identified by a working group of leading experts in the field of pancreatic cancer research. The meeting report will form the basis for the full report required by the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act. The full report is expected to be given to Congress later this year.

Leaders from many different disciplines were among the experts who participated in the pancreatic cancer working group meeting which took place in October 2012, including many of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s former or current Scientific Advisory Board and Medical Advisory Board members, research grant recipients and Lynn Matrisian, Ph.D., vice president of scientific and medical affairs for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

“We applaud the National Cancer Institute and Dr. Varmus for taking this important first step towards accelerating scientific advances for this devastating disease and for their leadership in issuing this initial report. We look forward to seeing the full report called for in the statute and identifying new ways in which we can partner with the NCI as we strive to significantly increase the survival for pancreatic cancer patients,” stated Julie Fleshman, president and CEO for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

The four initiatives outlined in the report include: investigating the link between diabetes and pancreatic cancer with an eye towards learning how to detect pancreatic cancer in its early stages, identifying biomarkers for early detection using registries of patients with a family history of pancreatic cancer, harnessing the immune system for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, and developing drugs that target RAS, a gene that is mutated in the vast majority of pancreatic cancer cases. The NCI recently announced that the RAS project is already underway and is being led by Frank McCormick, Ph.D., FRS, a member of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Scientific Advisory Board. In addition, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network helped sponsor a recent joint meeting of the NCI and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases which explored the links between diabetes, pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer as an initial step towards the first initiative.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network also sees these areas of research as high priorities. In fact, the organization recently awarded two inaugural Research Acceleration Network Grants, totaling two million dollars, to investigators focusing on immunotherapy and biomarkers for high risk patients. In addition, multiple grants have been awarded by the organization over the past 11 years to fund projects focused on all four of the high priority topics.

“The high risk, high impact initiatives set forth in the meeting report are the exact type of projects the NCI should be working on and we are hopeful they can lead to the scientific breakthrough so desperately needed for this deadly disease,” added Fleshman. “The release of this report and identification of priority research initiatives in pancreatic cancer further emphasizes the importance of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s continuous advocacy efforts. Earlier this month at the seventh annual Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day, thousands of pancreatic cancer advocates, including researchers, survivors and family members, urged their members of Congress to create a permanent fix to sequestration and provide sustained and adequate funding for the National Institutes of Health and NCI. These efforts are more vital than ever to ensure that we are able to leverage the priority pancreatic cancer research initiatives that come out of the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, like those identified in the report released by NCI this week.”

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
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
(310) 706-3362