The Pancreatic Cancer Collective is an initiative of Lustgarten Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer to improve pancreatic cancer patient outcomes. The Pancreatic Cancer Collective, will accelerate research for pancreatic cancer patients who desperately need better treatments. Through the Collective, these two leading organizations in the cancer community, with input from thought leaders, will create a dynamic and fluid network to engage and influence medical institutions, researchers and companies, aligned to achieve something bigger and more meaningful, in particular to:
- Inspire collaboration among people who haven’t worked together.
- Spread funding to new centers.
- Leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) approaches.
- Improve and develop new diagnosis and treatments for pancreatic cancer.
- Utilize the breadth and expertise of existing teams and researchers supported by SU2C and Lustgarten Foundation to support new investigators coming into the field, building expertise and capacity for additional research.
My Journey with Pancreatic Cancer
I began my journey with pancreatic cancer with a medical journal article discovered by my wife, who is an RN.
The article presented a small study of 40 participants who had no symptoms but who had a strong family history of pancreatic cancer. Each participant was given an MRI of the abdomen. Sixteen of those 40 were found to have a pancreatic lesion. Five of those patients underwent surgery, which revealed pancreatic carcinoma in three of them, and intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasia in the other two, a precancerous condition.
Taking Action Based on Family History
Since both of my parents had pancreatic cancer, I arranged to have an MRI even though I, like the patients in the above study, had no symptoms. My MRI revealed a lesion. I had a number of additional studies done locally at the VA hospital near my home in Florida. Since we would be driving through Texas in August 2015, we arranged an appointment to see Dr. Matthew Katz at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. After his evaluation, he felt that my pancreatic lesion (intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm) needed only periodic follow-up. So for the next two years we followed up locally with periodic MRI or CT scans, blood tests looking for tumor markers, and endoscopic procedures with ﬁne needle aspiration of cells in pancreatic ducts.
Then in the fall of 2017, my pancreas images showed signiﬁcant change that was very concerning. But even then, I had no symptoms of active disease. We repeated the studies in three months and made the decision then to move forward with a Whipple procedure with Dr. Katz. A subtotal pancreatectomy was part of the procedure.
What was found was a strikingly diseased pancreas (dysplasia) and one area of carcinoma in situ, an early cancer that had not yet spread. No nodes were involved and there was no evidence of cancer cells having escaped. I was cancer-free and no additional treatment was needed!
Since 2012, Lustgarten Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer have built a robust and illustrious collaboration, jointly funding over 400 investigators across nearly 70 leading research centers in both the United States and the United Kingdom. These efforts include four of SU2C’s signature Dream Teams as well as five Research Teams, including two Convergence Teams bringing together computational experts with clinical oncologists. Cancer Interception, research supporting the earliest diagnosis of pancreatic cancer even before the cancer may have fully formed, is the focus of one of the Dream Teams and one of the Research Teams. All told, these collaborative teams have planned, started or completed 25 clinical trials. The Pancreatic Cancer Collective will build on this momentum and push the boundaries of what can be accomplished even further.