Report Predicts Pancreatic Cancer Will Become Second Leading Cause of Cancer Death in U.S. by 2020
No detection tools or effective treatments are currently available (Sept. 11)
On September 11, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, based in Manhattan Beach, Calif., released a report detailing the rising threat of pancreatic cancer. According to the report, projections based on the changing demographics of the U.S. population and on changes in cancer incidence and death rates indicate that pancreatic cancer will move from the fourth to the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. by 2020, and possibly as early as 2015.
The report notes that pancreatic cancer is the only one among the top five lethal cancers (lung, colorectal, breast, pancreas, and prostate) for which both the incidence rate and the death rate are increasing.
Currently, no detection tools or effective treatments are available for pancreatic cancer, the report states. The research advances that have changed the death rates for other cancers have not translated into clinical benefits for pancreatic cancer patients. Several biological hurdles have impeded efforts to reduce the mortality rate from pancreatic cancer, including the anatomical location of the pancreas; an unusually dense and impenetrable barrier that inhibits the delivery of therapeutic drugs to the tumor; and genetic alterations that elude targeted therapies.
These challenges have been compounded by a historically small and underfunded research community dedicated to studying the disease, the report says. Funding for pancreatic cancer research lags significantly behind that of the other current top five lethal cancers.
The largest source of cancer research funding in the U.S. is the National Cancer Institute (NCI). NCI research investment towards pancreatic cancer, however, is only 2% of the NCI’s total budget, representing one-third to one-sixth the amount dedicated to the other top five cancers.
According to the report, progress in changing the trajectory of the rise in deaths from pancreatic cancer will require not only increased funding, but a carefully considered, long-term, and comprehensive strategic plan to ensure that limited federal resources target the areas with the greatest need and with the greatest potential for patient benefits. Congress is currently debating the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act (S. 362/H.R. 733), which asks the NCI to create a long-term, comprehensive strategic plan to address the problem.
For more information, visit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Web site.