San Diego Researchers Join Pancreatic Cancer 'Dream Team'
Pancreatic cancer makes up only 2 percent of all new cancer cases each year, but it is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.
Doctors said it is often a particularly aggressive form of cancer and notoriously difficult to treat. Now, a $12 million effort is underway to find new ways to treat and slow the growth of pancreatic cancer. Several San Diego researchers have been asked to join what is being called a "dream team" of pancreatic cancer experts.
Ronald Evans, director of the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, said scientists have developed 20 different types of “dream teams” around the world, but this is the first to focus on treating pancreatic cancer.
“After more than 30 years, there has been hardly any improvement in the treatment (of pancreatic cancer),” Evans told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. “By the time you get a diagnosis for pancreatic cancer, it’s almost too late to do anything about it.”
Evans said the team will use pre-clinical systems to replicate the cancer and test drugs to treat it. Pre-clinical systems can range from creating cancer cells in a dish or developing the cancer cells in mice.
“We’re going to understand the ways in which these (cancer) cells set up these networks, and how to deconstruct them, how to tear them down,” said Andy Lowy, chief of surgical oncology at UC San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center. Lowy was selected to be on the “dream team.”
As of now, pancreatic cancer can only be treated by surgery or with two different types of chemotherapy drugs. The chemotherapy can extend a life by about six weeks, Evans said.
According to the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, 94 percent of patients will die within five years of a diagnosis.