Pancreatic Cancer: Some Progress But More Research Required

–submitted by Linn Roth; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

LoConte NoelleAt our April 27 meeting, Dr. Noelle LoConte of the UW gave us some frightening, but also some hopeful information and a call to action during a presentation entitled Pancreatic Cancer Research: A Medical Oncology Perspective.  As many know, often because of personal experience, pancreatic cancer is a particularly virulent disease, with a five year survival rate of less than 5%.  With the exception of a rising incidence in the African American population, the incidence of this disease has remained relatively stable in our population.  Nevertheless, pancreatic cancer is expected to be the second most common cause of cancer mortality by 2020.  These numbers reflect the fact that there is no current method to screen for pancreatic cancer, and therefore, patients are typically diagnosed well into the disease process, when it is too late for effective surgical or drug intervention.   In addition, the risk factors are not well established, although age is clearly the most important factor, with smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and other contributors playing a role.

But the good news is that survival rates have slowly but surely been improving, and new methods to diagnose and treat the disease are in development.  Dr. LoConte is a firm believer that more basic research is the key to defeating pancreatic cancer, and that the UW Pancreatic Cancer Task Force will be a major contributor to this national effort.  As always, competition for funding and awareness is keen, but there are supportive events and direct means for individuals to help here in Madison.  To learn more about this disease and UW’s efforts to combat it, and to provide support, visit

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