Pancreatic cancer: The next frontier

Developing treatments and therapies to fight this disease

Pancreatic cancer research has proven the advantage of combination therapies, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy when given after surgical resection.  Unfortunately, there have been limited advances for more than 20 years. Even though pancreatic cancer is an uncommon cancer, it has one of the highest mortality rates.

Major advances have been made in the treatment of breast and colon cancers, among others, and have inspired future treatment of pancreatic cancer. Ongoing research, including molecular profiling, targeted therapy, and neo-adjuvant therapy has helped us formulate novel treatments. The preliminary data coming out of these research projects has shown improvement in the survival of patients with this disease, giving a new hope to all patients and health care providers dealing with pancreatic cancer on a daily basis.

Currently, we have new therapies, including FOLFIRINOX, which shows an improvement in survival of patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer.  We also have advanced image guided radiation techniques with better local control and with less normal tissue damage. In addition, new advances in neo-adjuvant and adjuvant chemotherapy, including EGFR receptor antibodies like Erlotinib, that when added to standard Gemcitabine based chemotherapy, shows improvement in overall survival.  In addition, clinical trials for rare neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas using targeted mTOR (a protein which regulates vital cell growth and is active in cancers) inhibitors are available.

Despite all these advances, the most important factor associated with good outcomes is quality control.  Quality assurance in pancreatic cancer care is the main focus for many of the most recent research projects around the world.  Many clinical researchers have shown that the best results are seen when a multidisciplinary team of physicians and allied personnel who possess significant experience with these cases treats patients.

Surgery remains the main curative treatment available.  The best results in pancreatic cancer surgery come from centers with Surgical Oncologists with special training in pancreas surgery who are working in a medical center with adequate case volume, a dedicated ICU team, and a team of interventional radiologists and gastroenterologists.  It is also extremely important for the team to have Medical and Radiation Oncologists with experience treating pancreatic cancer to assure the best patient care.

At Lakeland Regional Cancer Center (LRCC), we proudly offer a multidisciplinary center of excellence for the treatment of hepatobiliary and pancreatic cancers. Our team approach and rigorous quality control measures, secure the best outcomes currently possible for patients with pancreas cancer.  We have ongoing clinical trials which continue to expand our understanding of cancer. Our main goal at LRCC is to provide the highest quality comprehensive cancer care for all our patients, which does not end at the completion of therapy. We have a survivorship program which offers post treatment ancillary care which includes support groups, dietary consultations, and programs for both mind and body.

For more information, please visit or call 863-603-6565.


story by MANUEL MOLINA, MD, Surgical Oncologist; MADHAVI VENIGALLA, MD, Medical Oncologist; and ARVIND B. SONI, MD, Radiation Oncologist

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