For the 53,000 Americans who will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, news on the treatment front is slowly but assuredly improving. This disease, often considered one of the most difficult to treat, has received a great deal of focus in recent years. With an estimated 41,000 deaths annually from this cancer in America, researchers are working hard to enhance treatments and improve outlooks for patients. Neoadjuvant therapy, in fact, has come a long way in recent years.
Neoadjuvant therapy is a first-step treatment meant to improve the chances of the main treatment working. For example, hormone or chemotherapy used shrink a tumor before surgery would be considered neoadjuvant in nature. While commonly used in other cancers, such as prostate and breast, neoadjuvant therapy for pancreatic cancer is just beginning to come into its own with positive results being seen.
Clinicians have found over the past few years that combination chemotherapy can prove quite helpful in assisting pancreatic cancer that is metastatic. Doctors have noted an increased survival rate courtesy of this combination chemo treatment in addition to an improvement in response rates. This therapy is being used before surgery and other interventions in cases where the cancer is potentially resectable or borderline.
Radiation therapy for pancreatic cancer has also been refined over the past few years. Previously, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy was used. Thanks to advancements on this front, doctors are able to provide a shorter schedule of radiation that involves higher doses. This may or may not be followed by chemo. The shorter, more highly dosed radiation bursts can also reduce exposure to toxicity, clinicians say.
Pancreatic cancer research still has a long way to go before a cure for this disease is found. With an overall survival rate of less than 10 percent at the five-year mark, this form of cancer is considered among the deadliest. Improvements in neoadjuvant therapy are a major step forward, however. Anything that can be done to increase the success rates of main interventions is a big step forward, many researchers say. Since this form of cancer typically presents with no or few symptoms initially, early detection is often difficult. Advances on this front are also in progress with the hope that screening for high-risk patients will become much easier in the near future.
Pancreatic cancer is a relatively rare form of this disease. People who are concerned about their risks for pancreatic cancer should discuss the issue with their healthcare providers. There are ways to screen those most likely to develop this potentially fatal disease.