What does the future hold for patients with cancer of the pancreas?

Scientists at hospitals and medical centers all across the country are studying pancreatic cancer. They are trying to learn what causes this disease and how to prevent it. They are also looking for better ways to diagnose and treat it.

The NCI is supporting may studies of new treatments for pancreatic cancer. Researchers are exploring new drugs and drug combinations, new forms of radiation therapy, biological therapy, and combinations of these treatments.

Researchers are also looking at new ways to give radiation. For example, they are studying giving radiation therapy two or more times a day, or during surgery (intraoperative radiation), or with drugs that help protect normal tissue so that higher doses can be given.

Biological therapy is a new type of cancer treatment that uses natural and laboratory-produced substances to stimulate or restore the body’s immune system so it can fight disease more effectively. This kind of treatment is being studied in patients with advanced or recurring cancer of the pancreas.

When laboratory research shows that a new treatment method has promise, it is used to treat cancer patients in clinical trials. These trials are designed to answer scientific questions and to find out whether a new treatment is both safe and effective. Patients who take part in clinical trials make an important contribution to medical science and may have the first chance to benefit from improved treatment methods. A person with cancer of the pancreas who is interested in taking part in a trial should discuss this option with his or her doctor.

One way to learn about clinical trials is through PDQ, a computerized resource of cancer treatment information. Developed by NCI, PDQ contains an up-to-date list of trials all over the country. Doctors can obtain an access code and use a personal computer to get PDQ information, or they can use the services of a medical library.


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