Clinical Trials Offer Hope to Pancreatic Cancer Patients
It only takes a quick Google search to become overwhelmed by the statistics for pancreatic cancer.
Because symptoms are often vague and because of a high propensity to spread, this form of cancer is difficult to detect in its early stages.
More than half of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed after the disease has metastasized, and statistics on survival rates can be discouraging. The five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is just nine percent, and only 29 percent for the one-year survival rate.
In the fight against pancreatic cancer, clinical trials often provide the best treatment options, and they give patients early access to cutting-edge treatments that can lead to progress in research, improved treatment options and better outcomes. This is why the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strongly recommends clinical trials at diagnosis and during every treatment decision.
“The best screening methods and treatments are probably still in the lab,” says Leonora Kaufmann, a pancreatic cancer survivor.
When Kaufmann was diagnosed with the disease, she worked in the medical information field, so she knew that clinical trials were an important consideration. She began researching her options almost immediately.
“My husband and I were stunned,” she says. “We didn’t really say anything to each other. When we got home, we cried, and then I started looking up clinical trials.”
Kaufmann was diagnosed over four years ago, but pancreatic cancer is still very much a part of her life. She’s lost two cousins to the same disease in the last few years, and she’s currently undergoing a surveillance trial to help further research. She’s also aware that the cancer could return, which is why she has a list of trials ready in the event that it does.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” she says. “I just live every day and know how lucky I am.”
Gil Marchman feels equally fortunate to be alive ever since he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 17 years ago. He now relishes the time he spends with his granddaughter and plays golf nearly every day in the summer. He’s able to do these things, in part, because he also participated in a clinical trial.
Marchman knew it was important to be informed after his diagnosis, but he didn’t know what questions to ask. So, he started doing some research. The initial findings, he admits, were bleak.
“When you start looking, you may find upsetting information because the statistics are bad. And there are doctors that will tell you there’s nothing they can do, and you should get your affairs in order. But pancreatic cancer is not a death sentence,” Marchman says.
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network maintains the most up-to-date database of pancreatic cancer clinical trials available in the U.S., which can be accessed two ways. A Patient Central Associate can run a personalized clinical trials search for you, or you can start your own search with their free online Clinical Trial Finder tool.
“My Patient Central Associate helped me learn a lot,” Marchman says. “I think having all of this information helped me heal.”
Patient advocate Scott Nelson is also a big believer in the power of information. A pancreatic cancer survivor, he knows firsthand how important it is for recently diagnosed patients to not only be aware of the resources available to them, but to also have a strong support network guiding them through the process.
“When you get the diagnosis, you can’t even think. You’re in shock. You have to make life changing decisions, and many people feel they don’t know how to navigate the medical system,” he says.
Nelson first discovered he had pancreatic cancer in 2004 after he began working with his doctor to reduce his cholesterol. In the process, he started feeling sick to his stomach, and his doctor noticed something unusual with one of his blood tests. So, the doctor sent Nelson for an ultrasound he says he’ll never forget.
“The technician did the ultrasound, looked up at me, and ran out of the room,” says Nelson.
Nelson later learned that he had a cancerous tumor on his pancreas and that, because of its size and location, surgery was not an option. That’s when one of his doctors suggested he look into a clinical trial. With any luck, it could reduce the size of the tumor so that he could undergo surgery and have it removed.
Twelve years later, Nelson credits much of his survival to finding that treatment.
“If I didn’t stop to consider my options, including clinical trials, I wouldn’t be alive. I wouldn’t have met my grandchildren,” he says.
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network maintains the most comprehensive and up-to-date database of pancreatic cancer clinical trials in the United States. You can access this information for free. To get a personalized list of trials that match what you need, contact a Patient Central Associate or start your own search through our Clinical Trial Finder.