Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

Pancreatic cancer begins in the cells of the pancreas – an organ in the abdomen that lies behind the lower part of the stomach. The pancreas has two main functions. It makes enzymes that help with digestion, and it makes hormones, such as insulin, that control how our bodies store and use glucose – sugar that is the body’s main source of energy.

There are two forms of pancreatic cancer: exocrine pancreatic cancer, which accounts for approximately 95 percent of all cases, and endocrine or pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, also called islet cell tumors.

Smoking, being overweight, having diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, and certain hereditary conditions are risk factors for pancreatic cancer.

The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program estimates that there will be over 57,600 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the U.S. and some 47,050 deaths from these cancers in 2020. It is the third leading cause of cancer death in this country.    

Moreover, pancreatic cancer is projected to become the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. by 2030, behind lung cancer, according to data published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).   

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

What Is the AACR Doing in This Area?

In September 2020, the AACR held a Virtual Special Conference on Pancreatic Cancer that showcased many of the cutting-edge discoveries and promising advances in the understanding and treatment of pancreatic cancer. Plenary Session topics covered all aspects of pancreatic cancer research, from basic research discoveries to evidence-based clinical trials, convening world-renown experts to discuss the latest advances.

In 2020, the AACR granted several promising researchers awards for their work in the field of pancreatic cancer. The awardees were:

  • Mari Nakamura, PhD, University of California San Diego – AACR-Bayer Stimulating Therapeutic Advances through Research Training (START) Grant
  • Laura D. Wood, MD, PhD, Johns Hopkins – AACR-Bristol-Myers Squibb Midcareer Female Investigator Grant
  • Etay Ziv, MD, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation-AACR Grant

As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), the AACR has provided scientific support, review, and oversight for “Dream Teams” of leading pancreatic cancer researchers. Teams were formed in 2009, 2014, 2015, and 2017. All four teams gather semi-annually to share their findings.