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Bringing Hope to Families with History of Pancreatic Cancer
By Jackie Ostrowicki
For too long, pancreatic cancer has been a mystery. It has no early detection or screening method. A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is devastating. The disease has a five-year survival rate of less than nine percent. And for people with a family history of pancreatic cancer, the lack of detection options leaves them feeling unsure about their own future health.
“People who have lost a family member to pancreas cancer are highly motivated to change the trajectory of this disease. So this is very important to them. They couldn’t do a lot to help, or to save their family member,” said Christina Hoy, DNP and project coordinator of a study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Expanding Early Diagnosis
Hoy and her fellow researchers are conducting a study for those with a higher than average risk to develop pancreatic cancer, including those with a family history. Every six months, study participants come in to answer questions and undergo blood draws. While there is still no screening for pancreatic cancer, UNMC scientists are hoping this research could lead to a screen for clinical and blood markers of the disease someday.
“People who have lost a family member to pancreas cancer are highly motivated to change the trajectory of this disease.”
“So we’re not detecting pancreas cancer early in participants who are enrolled in this specific study. But the goal is to come up with a blood test we can draw in the future,” said Hoy.
The study is part of UNMC’s ongoing fight against pancreatic cancer. The medical center already is nationally known for its pancreatic cancer research. It’s now ramping up its effort, creating what scientists call a “center of excellence,” recruiting more faculty, and allocating more resources. Hoy reports that UNMC is now part of a collaborative effort with multiple cancer centers around the U.S. attempting to develop an early detection method.
“Historically, pancreas cancer wasn’t a well-funded disease to study. But that is changing. And there’s more funding now. There’s more attention to this disease.”
Giving Patients and Their Families Greater Hope
The ability to detect pancreatic cancer early would be a significant achievement in the medical world. With continued support for their work, UNMC scientists could cause a positive impact for generations of families worried about the disease.
Pancreatic cancer remains one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. UNMC scientists like Hoy have made important breakthroughs, but more work is needed. UNMC is looking at a Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute that would expand early diagnosis and treatment research and give patients and their families greater hope.
“UNMC’s plan would be to recruit new pancreatic cancer researchers with specific expertise, develop new treatments and therapies for pancreatic cancer patients, and work towards diagnosing pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage,” said University of Nebraska President Ted Carter. “It’s an opportunity to invest in a bold idea that will transform Nebraska’s quality of life for generations to come.”
“If this is just one drop in the bucket, to change how it impacts people and their prognosis, I am incredibly proud to be here and doing this.”
“I’m very proud to be a part of this team," said Hoy. "This disease is difficult. And so, if this is just one drop in the bucket, to change how it impacts people and their prognosis, I am incredibly proud to be here and doing this.”
For more information about the study please visit Clinical Trials or call (402) 559-1577.
Pictured in the header photo: Christina Hoy, right, examines a blood sample with postdoctoral research associate Kirsten Eberle.
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