by | Nov 17, 2016 | Cancer, Cancer Research

World Pancreatic Cancer Day November 17, 2016

What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive disease with an extremely high mortality rate, mainly because it does not present any symptoms in its early stages and is highly resistant to chemotherapy.

Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas of the body. Pancreatic cancer begins when cells in the pancreas start to grow uncontrollably. The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach. It is shaped a bit like a fish with a wide head, a tapering body, and a narrow, pointed tail. In adults it is about 6 inches long but less than 2 inches wide. The head of the pancreas is on the right side of the abdomen (belly), behind where the stomach meets the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). The body of the pancreas is behind the stomach, and the tail of the pancreas is on the left side of the abdomen next to the spleen.

The pancreas has 2 main types of cells:

Exocrine cells: Most of the cells in the pancreas form the exocrine glands and ducts. The exocrine glands make pancreatic enzymes that are released into the intestines to help you digest foods (especially fats). The enzymes are first released into tiny tubes called ducts. These merge to form larger ducts, which empty into the pancreatic duct. The pancreatic duct merges with the common bile duct (the duct that carries bile from the liver), and empties into the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine) at the ampulla of Vater.

Endocrine cells: Endocrine cells make up a much smaller percentage of the cells in the pancreas. These cells are in small clusters called islets (or islets of Langerhans). The islets make important hormones like insulin and glucagon (which help control blood sugar levels), and release them directly into the blood.

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: Pancreatic cancer comprises a small percentage of overall cancer diagnoses, but is among the deadliest. When pancreatic cancer is diagnosed, it has typically spread to other areas of the body (stage IV). Despite aggressive conventional therapies such as surgery and chemotherapy, the five year survival rate is extremely low. This is why we need a truly integrative approach, where we combine the best conventional therapies and the best natural therapies in a way which is tailored to each patient’s specific diagnosis and treatment goals.

Notre Dame researcher’s discovery could change the way we treat pancreatic cancer

NOTRE DAME — Pancreatic cancer, it’s one of the most deadly types of cancer. Only 8% of those diagnosed survive past 5 years, according to the journal of Cancer Research. Reginald Hill, a Notre Dame professor in cancer biology, has dedicated years of research to changing that.
Most days, in his office, you’ll find his graduate student Katherine Richards discussing the day’s work. Although this duo isn’t working on your average book report.

“Our research has been focused on understanding why pancreatic cancer is so resistant to currently available forms of chemotherapy,” said Hill.

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: This is an excellent illustration of why we must not only treat the cancer, but the “terrain” as well. I describe cancer as a weed in the garden. We cannot simply pull up weeds and expect to reduce or eliminate cancer. We must also address the soil which has allowed weeds to grow and flourish in the first place. This terrain includes the cells surrounding the tumor, as well as the rest of the body. Everything is connected. So when we fight cancer, we are fighting two wars: one against the tumor(s), and another against the rest of the body which has allowed cancer to develop and progress.

Led by Former Lilly Exec, Apexian Out to Tackle Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is rare, but it is deadly. Of the estimated 46,000 American diagnosed with the disease in 2014, nearly 40,000 have died, according to the National Cancer Institute. Drug companies have taken different approaches to developing new drugs for the disease.

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: Because common chemotherapy agents do not typically work well against pancreatic cancer, any novel approaches which improve survival rates should be explored. I look forward to seeing what comes of this research.

PharmaCyte Biotech Now Awaits U.S FDA to Advance Pancreatic Cancer Therapy into Pivotal Clinical Trial

NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwired – November 16, 2016) – PharmaCyte Biotech (PMCB) has arrived at the door of U.S. FDA and awaits a pre-IND meeting with the agency. After years of surrounding its signature live-cell encapsulation technology, Cell-in-a-Box®, with some of the brightest minds in pancreatic cancer and fine-tuning its therapy and clinical trial design, the small biotech has reached the final test before it can begin its pivotal clinical trial in advanced pancreatic cancer.

Creating an “Artificial Liver” to Target Pancreatic Cancer
PharmaCyte’s pancreatic cancer therapy is made up of pinhead-sized, porous capsules that are filled with thousands of genetically modified cells that act as a type of “artificial liver.”
PharmaCyte’s Cell-in-a-Box® is not a drug delivery system. There are no drugs encapsulated inside the porous capsules for any of its treatments. Instead, the capsules are filled with about 10,000 live cells that are capable of converting an inactive chemotherapy drug (ifosfamide) into its active cancer-killing form — just as the enzyme system in a patient’s liver would normally do.

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: I like that this technology is not a drug delivery system, but rather, a drug activator which will theoretically improve the effectiveness of the drug. Research is obviously in its very early stages, but it is great to see scientists working on a solution to such a deadly disease.

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