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Could a cure be in the future for pancreatic cancer?

Jaclyn Harold
Created: January 09, 2020 05:51 PM

(ABC 6 News) - It's a silent threat but has become widely talked about surrounding the Jeopardy host- Alex Trebek's announcement that he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer back in March 2019.

While Trebek and so many like him continue to live their lives fighting the disease with chemotherapy and radiation, could a cure be in the near future?

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"We would love for a cure, we'll take anything that's going to improve things and improve outcomes and improve the quality of life for our patients," said Oncology Professor Robert McWilliams, with Mayo Clinic.

McWilliams said pancreatic cancer can oftentimes be overlooked. With symptoms that appear to be common things like weight loss or stomach pain, it takes longer to diagnose, and the longer it takes, the deadlier it can be.

"It's not something that is routinely screened for and oftentimes because of that, and the symptoms are fairly nonspecific it is often detected later than we'd like to," said McWilliams, and even though pancreatic cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths, researchers aren't giving up hope.

According to research at the University of Bath located in England, there are chemicals from a tropical flower grown in different parts of Southeast Asia, that could possibly offer a better solution.

On December 11, Science Daily wrote an article about the study stating that during the research, the university created three molecules that each killed pancreatic cancer cells. McWilliams said he hasn't heard of the study, but that everything that works in a lab may not necessarily work outside of it.

Though the research may still be in the early stages, Mayo Clinic is making strides right now that can help with certain treatments.

"Last week there was a new drug approved called Lynparza or, Olaparib. It takes advantage of our knowledge of a very specific subset of pancreatic cancer patients. For those subsets of patients this is a pill that they can take as a maintenance instead of the (IV) chemotherapy, so it tends to have fewer side effects," said McWilliams.

Although it's not a cure, it's a step in the right direction and it's a path that medical experts will continue to take.


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