For the 53,000 Americans likely to receive a positive diagnosis of pancreatic cancer this year, the diagnosis is actually anything but positive. While many other forms of cancer have highly effective treatments available, pancreatic cancer remains a major thorn in healthcare providers’ sides.

This disease, with a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent, tends to be very difficult to diagnosis. This is thanks to its presentation with very few symptoms in earlier stages. Add to this fact that pancreatic tumors are known to resist standard treatments and the reasons for a relatively grim prognosis become clear.

This is why advances in immune therapy are making such waves in pancreatic cancer treatment circles. This type of therapy involves getting the body itself to fight off the invading cancer tumors. One technique has been showing a great deal of promise.

The new form of therapy under study arose from previous studies involving mice, inhibitor drugs and immune therapy. The research found that when a combination of drugs was used, there was success in breaking down pancreatic tumors. The immunotherapy technique is said to produce better results because it breaks down tissues that protect cancer cells in the pancreatic, essentially better enabling other forms of treatment to work.

While research into the new immune therapy technique remains in the laboratory at this time with mice as the subjects, it is showing promise. Researchers found that mice given the combo treatment lived longer. The treatment, however, has not been shown to cure the disease.

Pancreatic cancer has a number of risk factors, including diabetes, chronic pancreatitis and family history. People who are at risk for the disease are urged to talk with their healthcare providers. While standardized early screening tests are not available, there are techniques available to help doctors diagnose this disease in earlier stages should the need arise.