Pancreatic cancer has long been one of the most difficult forms of this disease to detect and treat. With early screening not widely available and few symptoms at the onset, pancreatic cancer often goes undetected until long after it has spread to other parts of the body. Considering these complications, pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all forms of cancer with less than 10 percent of patients surviving five years after diagnosis.

A new form of immunotherapy, however, is showing a great deal of promise in treating advanced pancreatic cancer. The therapy is designed to boost the body’s immune system to enable it to fight cancer cells on its own. At present, chemotherapy is the only real treatment available for advanced cases since tumors cannot be successfully removed.

A recent trial involving the immune therapy produced rather promising results. Patients in the study were broken into two groups. One group was given standard chemotherapy on its own. In the other group, patients received chemotherapy and immune therapy. Patients who received both treatments tended to live longer with some patients surviving years longer than expected. This is significant because most advanced pancreatic cancer patients tend to only live between 6 to 11 months, researchers noted.

While it remains unclear how soon the treatment might be made available on a widespread basis, it is a major step forward for patients. Immune therapy has been under heavy study for the treatment of a variety of cancers because of the potential benefits it could have on survival.

People who are at risk for pancreatic cancer are urged to talk with their healthcare providers. Like many other forms of the disease, early detection can greatly increase survival chances. Understanding personal risk for the disease is critical for helping with prevention and promoting early detection should the disease be suspected.