Dr. Tomislav Dragovich is chief of Medical Oncology and Hematology at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Question: Why is it important to go to a cancer center that offers clinical trials in pancreatic cancer?
Answer: Pancreatic cancer is often difficult to diagnose in its earliest stages because the cancer is rarely accompanied by very specific symptoms. By the time a patient experiences significant symptoms, the cancer has advanced, and in half of those cases, the disease has spread to other areas of the body. Pancreatic cancer carries a very high mortality rate, with only 10 to 30 percent of patients surviving for five years, depending on the type of disease.
Because outcomes are not particularly favorable for patients with pancreatic cancer, it is very important to be treated by a team of experts experienced in diagnosing and treating pancreatic cancer. The level of research and innovation that accompanies a robust clinical trial program is hoped to further enhance survival rates. For example, clinical trials have helped to identify how genetics influence pancreatic cancer, and have led to the development of treatments like adjuvant chemotherapy, which is given prior to surgery to shrink a pancreatic tumor and ease removal of the diseased tissue, and drugs such as gemcitabine, nab-paclitaxel and oxaliplatin, which are now incorporated as a part of standard treatments used worldwide.
These breakthroughs have extended and improved the lives of many pancreatic cancer patients. More importantly, for patients with pancreatic cancer, a comprehensive cancer treatment center pairs these opportunities for patient-centered research with an entire spectrum of care that addresses a cancer patient’s clinical and emotional needs.