Confronting Pancreatic Cancer

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 53,000 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the U.S. and some 43,090 deaths from these cancers in 2017. 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?

An AACR Special Conference on Pancreatic Cancer was held in 2016, and a follow-up conference is under development for 2018/2019. The 2016 conference featured topics ranging from epidemiology to evidence-based clinical trials from the basic, translational, and clinical perspectives.

Since the AACR and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network first teamed up in 2003, more than $30 million in pancreatic research funding has been directly awarded to more than 110 scientists at biomedical research institutions across the U.S. In 2017 awards went to researchers at the University of Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Two additional AACR awards went to pancreatic cancer-focused studies in 2017. Sharon Gorski, PhD, of the Genome Sciences Center, won the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation-AACR Grant for her project, "Proteogenomic analysis of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors." 

Also, Costas A. Lyssiotis, PhD, of the University of Michigan was awarded the AACR NextGen Grant for Transformative Cancer Research for his study, "Intratumoral metabolic crosstalk supports pancreatic tumor growth."

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 a fourth pancreatic cancer Dream Team was selected in 2017. All four teams gather semi-annually to share their findings. 

The AACR's mission is to prevent and cure all forms of cancer.

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is a 501c3 registered nonprofit organization with offices at 615 Chestnut Street, 17th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19106 | 215.440.9300