Pancreatic cancer, compared to other cancers, has a low profile. But then it is the third leading cause of cancer mortalities in the United States according to the American Cancer Society. Its mortality rates increase each year. Pancreatic cancer is deadly because it doesn’t have early screening tests and has no cure as well. Experts say the nature of the disease makes it difficult to research.
Pancreatic cancer has numerous challenges which call for more funding to help in research that will ensure availability of better screening and treatment options.
Some of these challenges are that:
- Pancreatic cancer is rapidly lethal. The disease does not behave like other cancers, so the treatment approaches used on other cancers don’t work well on pancreatic tumors.
- Not many pancreatic cancer survivors can create awareness campaigns and publicize fundraising events to help combat the disease. This is because most of them die within a short period of diagnosis. It is difficult to find and retain pancreatic cancer patients for clinical trials and further research because of its metastasizing speed.
- There’s little time for the patients and their families to absorb the diagnosis before the patient succumbs to the disease.
- Pancreatic cancer has been underfunded and understudied because it is a little bit of a Catch-22 for scientists and clinicians studying it. The best thing a doctor can offer a pancreatic cancer patient is optimism and hope.
- The resistance mechanism in pancreatic cancer is that it decreases the supply of blood instead of increasing it the way other cancers do.
- Clinical staging system of pancreatic cancer is not clear-cut. Even when caught at early stages, the disease requires complicated surgery (Whipple procedure), and after surgery, the l0-year survival rate is less than 10%. The disease ends up metastasizing because even the early tumors will have already spread. They get to the bloodstream and find ways to survive in other body organs including at the microscopic level.
- Pancreatic cancer does not trigger the immune system, making it difficult to detect through lab tests.
Recent discoveries have made the disease more understandable. Researchers have begun to look for more ways to out-think the tricky disease cells using immunotherapy techniques and molecular biology. Techniques are underway to help target particular aspects of the tumor cell of the pancreas that will prime it to be receptive to drug therapies used in other cancers.