Pancreatic cancer is a highly aggressive and fast-growing form of cancer that starts when the DNA in pancreatic cells is damaged. It is a complex disease to treat as many tumors resist many anti-cancer drugs. There is no known cause of the disease, but some risk factors can aggravate its development.
Pancreatic cancer causes no symptoms during the early stages, and when it does, the cancer will already have metastasized to other body organs. Due to its aggressiveness, the tumors tend to develop much faster than the blood vessels which supply nutrients to body cells. This causes a lack of nutrients, which in turn kills healthy cells while cancer cells continue to grow as they can survive the austere conditions.
Researchers have developed new molecules that are identical to a chemical found in UvariaGrandiflora, a tropical plant that grows in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. The three molecules, which are similar to Grandifloracin, can help healthy cells survive adverse conditions and kill the cancerous counterparts.
During their research;
- The three molecules can destroy pancreatic cancer cells in the body. Two of the molecules are more effective in killing the tumors than the primary Grandifloracin molecule.
- Since pancreatic cancer is a difficult-to-treat disease with tumors resisting many anti-cancer drugs, the molecules can be valuable tools for combating this condition to ensure positive outcomes for patients.
- The molecules are anti-austerity agents that can help take away the cancer cells’ ability to tolerate starvation conditions in the body. This will cause them to die while healthy cells with regular nutrient supply will stay unaffected.
The natural products have sparked interest in scientists to develop new drugs for effectively treating pancreatic cancer with less toxicity. This is part of the ongoing research to develop new treatments from compounds derived from daffodils in order to treat brain cancers.
Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate compared to other cancers. It is common in both women and men of all ages. Patients may not show any symptoms until when the disease is advanced. Symptoms include jaundice, dark colored urine, back and belly pain, itchy skin, nausea, vomiting, sudden weight loss, the onset of diabetes, and loss of appetite.
The pancreas’ location in the body makes it hard to detect the disease early. Only when the tumor grows and starts affecting other organs will the patient begin experiencing symptoms. Early detection of the disease can help to administer timely treatment. Awareness about pancreatic cancer is crucial in order to help find possible treatment options for patients.
Pancreatic cancer begins in the cells found in the pancreatic duct. Exocrine pancreatic disease occurs when the pancreas cells begin to grow uncontrollably. Tumors that form in hormone-producing cells or the neuroendocrine cells of the pancreas are known as pancreatic endocrine cancer, islet cell tumors, and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.
The risk factors for pancreatic cancer include obesity, alcohol consumption, and smoking, among others.
If diagnosed early, pancreatic cancer can be treated through a surgical procedure. Advanced forms of this condition may also require surgery to relieve pain, restore function, and improve a patient’s survival rate.
It is advisable to get routine examinations to assess your condition if you experience symptoms. Some of the diagnostic procedures include CT scans and MRIs. Endoscopic ultrasound can also be used to detect small lesions in the pancreas accurately. It will also provide detailed information about the progression of the disease and its vascular invasion. The ultrasound is used by oncologists to take targeted biopsies from patients.
Treatment options include the Whipple procedure to remove the head of the pancreas and parts of a few other organs like the gall bladder, small intestine, and bile duct. Other surgical procedures include distal pancreatectomy where the spleen is removed and total pancreatectomy where the whole pancreas will be removed.
Research has helped to introduce new treatments and diagnostic procedures that are minimally invasive. These include procedures such as cholangioscopy, pancreatoscopy, among others. More studies are ongoing to find novel methods of detecting and treating the disease early before it becomes lethal.
Pancreatic cancer patients with a particular mutation in their DNA can be treated with platinum-based chemotherapy and live longer. Those without the mutation may not be lucky even after receiving the same treatment.
The ability to define the subsets in patients who should receive tailored treatment based on tumor biology highlights the importance of molecular filing in improving patient outcomes.
Naturally, the DNA gets damaged every day. Body cells are designed to repair any errors in the DNA in many different ways, including HR. But some genes such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can be mutated and stop repairing the DNA by HR. Mutations in genes such as ATM, CHEK1/2, PALB2, ATRX, ATR, BAP1, BRIP1, and BARD1 can impair the HR too. When homologous recombination stops working, that is when conditions like cancer develop.
After examining data on patients with advanced pancreatic cancer and those whose tumors had been wholly or partially removed through surgery, researchers also sought to find out if they also had a specific mutation called homologous recombination (HR). This type of mutation impairs the body’s DNA repair process.
The patients selected in the study had mutations in HR genes (germline mutations) or had somatic mutations (mutations found in tumor tissue).
Those with metastatic disease and HR-related mutations managed to live 11 months longer after receiving platinum-based chemotherapy treatment. Those without the HR-related mutations did not live long.
This concludes that cancers that have HR-related mutations are vulnerable to platinum-based chemotherapy. However, platinum-based chemotherapy can only benefit certain patients and not all. Only a percentage of pancreatic cancers have HR-related mutations.
That is why platinum-based therapy cannot be the first-line of treatment for many other patients. Before getting treated, it is recommended that patients undergo molecular profiling to help identify mutations, especially those that can impact their treatment options.
Pancreatic cancer is considered the deadliest cancer because it’s tough to treat. First, because of its location in the body and the fact that symptoms present when the disease has already progressed. Plenty of studies have been undertaken and are still ongoing to find better ways of diagnosing and treating it early while it’s still localized.
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) has been at the forefront of creating awareness of pancreatic cancer through public advocacy, patient services, clinical initiatives, and research. The organization sensitizes the public to understand the risks and symptoms of the disease. PanCAN is determined to help improve pancreatic cancer outcomes and double its survival by 2020.
PanCAN launched a pancreatic cancer awareness month campaign in November and is encouraging everyone to participate in the fight against the disease. Through public service announcements, the organization uses a storytelling approach to highlight cancer survivor and caregiver stories. This has helped to spread awareness and information regarding the risks and symptoms of pancreatic cancer. PanCAN’s mission is to help improve patient outcomes.
The campaign features individuals directly affected by pancreatic cancer and PSA videos, which are released on a weekly basis to emphasize the importance of early diagnosis and self-advocacy. The campaign also encourages the public to wear purple as a symbol of pancreatic cancer, support research through donations to pancan.org, and raise awareness.
The campaign has underscored the urgent need for solutions that can help to improve pancreatic cancer patient outcomes. It encourages everyone to join in support of PanCAN’s mission. Right now, pancreatic cancer incidence rates keep increasing every year. It is the only form of cancer with the lowest five-year survival rate. Until now, there are no early detection methods and screening tests for the disease. Many patients are diagnosed late when the disease has already spread beyond the pancreas.
The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are often vague and not taken seriously by patients. They include unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain, jaundice, nausea, changes in stool, the onset of diabetes, and more. PanCAN advises everyone to pay close attention to the symptoms and consult the doctor immediately.
Reports from studies conducted in various research institutes are finding new ways of combining different types of radiation therapy with immune therapy to not only treat pancreatic cancer in mice, but also restructure the immune system to ‘remember’ the vaccine that helped fight the disease.
Results show that this combination destroyed pancreatic cells which spread to the other organs such as the liver. The liver is the most common organ which is attacked when one has pancreatic cancer. Studies report that pancreatic cancer is cause for concern as it spreads quickly and is hard to treat.
Surgery may not be an option, especially when pancreatic cancer is at advanced stages. It is located in a very delicate part of the body surrounded by many vital organs which makes surgery not a viable option. Chemotherapy is also not advised because of these same reasons. Besides, it has not been successful in controlling pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic tumors are famed for being extremely difficult to treat for various reasons including some listed previously. Pancreatic cancer destroys other proteins and tissue surrounding it and this now dangerous protein and cells shield the cancer cells from the antibodies sent by the immune system to fight the cancer cells.
This combining of treatment may be the hope that will transform many lives of patients with pancreatic cancer, whereby the treatment could achieve two tasks in one treatment: activate the cells to fight the cancerous ones and also change cells that inhibit the immune system to fight cancerous cells.
SBRT has been used in trials, where large doses of radiation are produced over a short time interval. This prepares the immune system to destroy the cancerous cells. Other drugs are used in the process. However, the side effects are what hold back this type of treatment as they are harsh and the patient requires a lot of care after treatment.
When a loved one opens up about a recent diagnosis of cancer, it can be very hard on those around them. Pancreatic cancer is especially hard to treat, and although patients can be optimistic, it is very hard on them. Some admit they will keep working or carrying out daily tasks as long as they have the energy for it.
Pancreatic cancer is very hard to detect in the body and this makes it very dangerous. You may have pancreatic cancer for a long time and not even know it. It is ranked third in the top five leading cancers among men, with 9 percent of these cases resulting in death.
Pancreatic cancer spreads quickly because of its position in the body. It is located far down in the abdomen and borders other important organs. It is a gland that secretes enzymes which aid in the digestive process and also produces hormones to maintain levels of blood sugar in the body.
Pancreatic tumors spread very quickly and are difficult to treat. These tumors can spread to other organs in the body which is cause for alarm. Even small tumors are extremely dangerous.
Other diseases such as diabetes, severe and inherited pancreatitis, smoking, old age, obesity, and poor diet consisting of high consumption of red and processed meat can also lead to pancreatic cancer.
Early signs of pancreatic cancer include:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Little to no appetite
There are many types of treatments offered to patients such as chemotherapy and surgery. Tests are being carried out on different combinations of chemotherapy to treat patients with pancreatic cancer before surgery to help eradicate this disease. This is so as to increase the survival rate. Specialists are hoping that in years to come more funding will support this research.
Although these statistics are discouraging, some patients do survive and the survival rate is increasing.
Grief is a natural reaction that comes when you receive your cancer diagnosis. Grief to some patients can last longer or progress into depression. To others, it will improve as time passes by. During this time, you need a lot of care and support from your cancer care team and your loved ones.
A pancreatic cancer diagnosis changes your life suddenly. You will start thinking of the frequent visits you will start making to your new doctors, changing your lifestyle habits and much more.
All these changes can cause grief as you feel the loss of your freedom, your usual routine and the loss of the days you enjoyed better health. Grief comes with a mixture of loneliness, anger, fear, and sadness.
Here are some of the ways you can cope with grief:
- Speak about it openly with your support system – For a pancreatic cancer patient to overcome their grief, they should speak publicly about their grief with their support system. Having a support system of healthcare professionals, caregivers, family and friends and patient advocates is very important. This will help you address and manage your needs. Talking about it openly with your loved ones and cancer care team can help you get the support you need, including finding medicines or strategies that will help you feel better.
- Allow yourself to be helped – It is good to let your support system to help you. Your loved ones can join you on your visits to the doctor, help with cooking or taking care of the household chores.
- Join a support group – Connecting with other cancer survivors will give you the confidence in coping with grief. From their support and encouragement, you will know what to expect and be ready for it beforehand.
- Get educated about pancreatic cancer – Learning all you can about pancreatic cancer will help you feel in control and develop a sense of independence. The more knowledge you get regarding your situation, the more confident you will feel when talking with your cancer care team and making important treatment decisions. Get all the resources you can and study them carefully.
Getting over your grief is quite challenging. But as they say, time heals all wounds. With time, you will overcome your grief and find a way to move on. Always remember to keep all the people in your life closer to you for maximum support.
Pancreatic cancer networks work together to fight pancreatic cancer and save lives. This they do by investing in research, advocacy, clinical initiatives, and patient services. Their efforts are amplified by a network of support to help improve patient outcomes and increase survival rates.
Every year, research is carried out to find better ways of detecting pancreatic cancer while it is still localized. Scientists are working tirelessly to ensure that patients don’t face this disease alone. They also try to create awareness about its symptoms and risk factors. All these they do because of the inspiration they get from donors.
Here is how pancreatic cancer funding helps to transform patient lives:
- Donations toward pancreatic cancer have helped scientists to make significant strides in research to implement clinical trials and develop new treatments for the disease. Through funding, clinical trials have been conducted to help develop precision treatments that will improve patient outcomes and increase the survival rates.
- All donations for pancreatic cancer are geared towards building and sustaining a group of researchers to study the disease and support research from the laboratory to the clinic in order to improve the treatment options.
- Pancreatic cancer funding has helped in research investments, including new large scale endeavors that help to revolutionize pancreatic cancer clinical trials and find better early detection strategies and techniques that will ensure better treatment outcomes.
- More funding goes toward advocating for pancreatic cancer awareness. It is used to fund national pancreatic cancer advocacy days and panels that discuss significant progresses and challenges in the field. It also helps to raise awareness about the disease, its symptoms, and risk factors.
Every year, the urgency to end pancreatic cancer continues to rise, and so do the statistics.
For the past four years, the five-year survival rate for the disease has gone up by 9 percent as of today. If this keeps on, the goal of doubling pancreatic cancer survival by the year 2020 will be achieved.
A recent study has revealed that pancreatic cancer cells quickly change their location in the body. They move to other organs, increasing the odds of pancreatic cancer death. The study revealed that pancreatic tumors generate more perlecan to modify the environment around them. This allows cancer cells to spread to other organs while protecting them against chemotherapy.
The research also indicated that decreased levels of perlecan reduces the spread of cancer and increases the body’s response to chemotherapy.
Pancreatic cancer is aggressive, usually making the tumor inoperable once discovered. There are two critical approaches to treating pancreatic cancer believed to increase the efficiency of chemotherapy and lower tumor spread.
Spotlight on the Tumor Matrix
An investigation to stop pancreatic cells from regeneration is done through a close look on fibroblasts. Researchers discovered that metastatic tumors produce more levels of fibroblasts than non-metastatic tumors. The discovery is that pancreatic cancer cells manifest depending on the shape of the tissue around them.
Using gene-editing technology, we can reduce the level of perlecan and use advanced imaging techniques to track pancreatic cancer cells. This will reduce the spread of cancer and increase the tumor’s response to chemotherapy and other treatments.
There is hope if fibroblasts are targeted correctly through targeting cancer cells concurrently. If fibroblasts and harboring genetic changes get targeted, they will get susceptible, thus making treatment much more comfortable.
If perlecan and other matrix molecules that aid in metastatic tumors are targeted, treatment will be valid for not only pancreatic cancer but also prostate and breast cancers. Most cancer therapies focus on the cancer cells themselves, leaving the location of the tumor potentially untapped. Thus, further research is required to treat the disease quickly.
In sum, pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest diseases. Its signs rarely show early, causing the cancer cells to spread quickly. Your physician should check the rate of spread when diagnosing the condition, and advise on effective treatment options.
Cysts are abnormal membrane sacs in the body that contain fluid. The pancreas is an essential organ since it produces enzymes that play a role in digestion. It also secretes insulin that regulates metabolism.
It’s rare for cysts to form in the pancreas and if they do, they are typically noncancerous. Cysts often originate from different conditions, such as inflammation, and their treatment is different.
How to find pancreatic cysts
Cysts rarely have signs and symptoms, making them difficult to find. In most cases, a scan is used to discover cysts. Cysts might cause abdominal pains or lead to the development of jaundice. If detected, take cysts seriously and discuss a possible treatment plan with the doctor.
The link between cysts and pancreatic cancer
A percentage of pancreatic cysts contain a mucus-like substance called mucin which can lead to blockage of the pancreatic duct. Cysts containing mucin have a high potential of being malignant, especially if they are large with thick walls when observed through imaging. A scan alone cannot reveal cysts because some have solid and liquid components. You will need a biopsy to tell whether pancreatic cysts have malignant cells.
Treating pancreatic cysts
It is not necessary to remove cysts. Those with benign cells have no high-risk feature; thus, you will only need simple follow-ups after imaging. Imaging follow-up tests should occur after every six months. High-risk cysts can be removed through surgery, but first, you should know the risks involved, including age, health, and the nature of cells found during biopsy.
It’s critical to consult with specialists before deciding what to do next because not all pancreatic cysts are cancerous. Visit a cancer center to do imaging and have a medical report generated. If the cysts are found to be harmful, then you will need to have them removed.