Pancreatic cancer is expected to surpass breast cancer to become the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to the latest Cancer Statistics 2016 report, published today by the American Cancer Society in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
While the relative five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer increased slightly to 8 percent, it is still the lowest survival rate of any cancer. Pancreatic cancer is expected to claim the lives of 41,780 individuals this year.
"It's time to shine a brighter spotlight on pancreatic cancer," said Julie Fleshman, JD, MBA, president and CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. "These statistics relay an even greater urgency to incite a national movement, focused on research, that will result in new treatment options and better outcomes for patients battling this disease."
Though the news is disheartening, it's not surprising.
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network predicted this shift in a May 2014 study published in the journal Cancer Research. The study also found that pancreatic cancer is predicted to become the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States around 2020, second only to lung cancer.
"These new statistics should be a wakeup call to the pancreatic cancer research community," said Gloria Petersen, PhD, a member of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's Scientific and Medical Advisory Board and professor of epidemiology in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. "It will take a dedicated research effort to bring urgently-needed progress to this disease."
The rising numbers of diagnoses and deaths from pancreatic cancer are due to several factors, including demographic changes – an aging population and changes in ratios of minority populations – as well as the lack of early detection or effective treatment options for the disease.
To combat this upward trend, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is working to double survival by 2020 by continuing to directly fund research, advocate for increased funding and resources from the national government, raise awareness through community outreach, and provide excellent patient services and support for novel initiatives like Clinical Trial Finder, Know Your TumorSM personalized medicine service and the Patient Registry.
But more must be done.
"We are at a critical point in history for this disease. Breast cancer advocates have paved the road for us and shown us what is possible," added Fleshman. "With more funding support and focus, we can expedite progress and change patient outcomes."
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network