Noteworthy Numbers: Pancreatic Cancer

TOP - January 2020, Vol 13, No 1

Although pancreatic cancer represents only 3.2% of all new cancer cases in the United States, it is now the third leading cause of cancer-related death.1,2 An estimated 45,750 Americans will die of pancreatic cancer in 2019, and there will be an estimated 56,770 new cases of the disease diagnosed in the same year.1 Given the poor prognosis associated with this type of cancer, researchers are striving to gain a better understanding of the biology of the disease, and to develop more effective treatments. In addition, advocacy groups are working to raise awareness about the disease and improve quality of life. Presented here are a few statistics about pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer progresses rapidly (in 1.3 years on average) from stage I to stage IV. Symptoms such as back or abdominal pain and nausea are subtle, and no tests are available for early detection. Only approximately 10% of patients are diagnosed at stage I, when the cancer is still localized within the pancreas. More than 50% of patients are not diagnosed until the disease has metastasized.3

Survival rates for patients with pancreatic cancer are among the lowest reported. Although the 5-year relative survival rate for neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) is 54%, NETs represent only 7% of pancreatic cancers.4,5

Exocrine tumors account for 93%, and the 5-year relative survival rate for exocrine tumors is related to the disease stage. Combined statistics for all cancer stages show a 5-year relative survival rate of 9%.5 Even in patients who are diagnosed with stage I disease, the 5-year survival rate is only 34%. Among the 52% of patients with distant-stage diagnosis, the 5-year survival rate is 3%.5

Research funding for pancreatic cancer has been relatively limited. However, advocacy groups, such as the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, are working to generate more funding to improve survival and quality of life for patients diagnosed with the disease. For example, for fiscal year 2017, the budget of the National Cancer Institute was $5.894 billion,6 which included $178,331,745 in research funding for pancreatic cancer.7

In August 2019, researchers at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, found that tumor progression in animal models of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma slowed down with the pharmacologic inhibition of the ABCC3 gene.8 The researchers conclude that this inhibition is a promising therapeutic option for patients with pancreatic cancer, and may lead to increased survival rates.

  1. National Cancer Institute. Cancer stat facts: pancreatic cancer. Accessed November 18, 2019.
  2. Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Pancreatic cancer facts. Accessed November 18, 2019.
  3. Pancreatic cancer: statistics. Accessed November 20, 2019.
  4. American Cancer Society. Survival rates for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor. Accessed November 20, 2019.
  5. American Cancer Society. Cancer facts & figures 2019. Accessed November 20, 2019.
  6. Department of Health & Human Services. FY 2017 budget. Accessed November 20, 2019.
  7. Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. NCI Increases Pancreatic Cancer Research Funding. Accessed November 21, 2019.
  8. Adamska A, Domenichini A, Capone E, et al. Pharmacological inhibition of ABCC3 slows tumour progression in animal models of pancreatic cancer. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2019;38:312.

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