Jefferson, PanCAN Holding Program April 5 to Help Patients, Families, and Public Learn More About Pancreatic Cancer


The message about pancreatic cancer is changing, says renowned surgeon Charles J. Yeo, M.D.

New imaging techniques, improved early detection and screening of high-risk groups, and new therapies on the horizon have begun to change the way pancreatic cancer is viewed. “There’s been a shift in the way we treat and think about this disease,” says Dr. Yeo, the Samuel D. Gross Professor and Chair of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson in Philadelphia. “We’re actually making great progress when it comes to pancreatic cancer.”

It’s against this background that Jefferson, Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), a national advocacy organization, are sponsoring a pancreatic cancer symposium on Saturday, April 5, 2008 on the Thomas Jefferson University campus. The program will be held in the Dorrance H. Hamilton Building, 1001 Locust Street, beginning at 9 a.m. It is free to the public.

Speakers from around the country will address a range of subjects, such as current diagnostic tools, new and experimental treatments, diet and nutrition, the doctor-patient relationship and caregiving. Dr. Yeo, for example, will discuss innovations in surgery for pancreatic cancer, while Jonathan Brody, Ph.D., assistant professor of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College, is speaking about new directions in pancreatic cancer research.

According to Dr. Yeo, Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center, in addition to performing the highest volume of pancreatic surgeries of any center in the tri-state area, is also exploring the basic science behind the development and behavior of the disease. Dr. Brody has intriguing findings suggesting how pancreatic cancer cells may evade detection by the immune system, he notes, while Hwyda Arafat, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College, has shown that common blood pressure medications might help block the spread of pancreatic cancer.

“This meeting provides an educational forum for individuals and families touched by pancreatic cancer,” Dr. Yeo says.

Pancreatic cancer, the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in this country, takes more than 34,000 lives a year. The disease is difficult to treat, particularly because it is frequently detected after it has spread to other areas of the body. Only 4 percent of all individuals with pancreatic cancer live for five years after diagnosis, and approximately 25 percent of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer who undergo successful surgical removal of their disease live at least that long.

But recent figures give new hope: for those who live for five years after surgical resection, some 55 percent will be alive at least another five years. “It is great news that we are now seeing more five-year and some 10-year survivors,” says Dr. Yeo.