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Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, for men and women. In a single year, more than 43,000 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease, with another 39,000 dying from it. Despite widespread progress on other types of cancer in recent decades, the overall incidence and mortality rates for pancreatic cancer have changed very little.
Without an effective screening method for pancreatic cancer, diagnosis often comes late when the cancer has advanced into a stage where treatment is more difficult. By that time, pancreatic cancer is typically in an aggressive stage. Surgery, for instance, offers people the greatest chance at survival, but diagnosis often comes only after the cancer has spread to areas surrounding the organ. Finally, pancreatic cancer is particularly resistant to chemotherapy and radiation, and there has been little treatment progress of late.
A Reason for Hope
Pancreatic cancer research at the University of Michigan, led by a multidisciplinary team of scientists and clinicians, holds the promise to significantly change these dismal statistics by revolutionizing pancreatic cancer care. The team is attacking the disease on several fronts:
- Developing reliable detection methods (like a simple blood test)
- Identifying new drugs designed to eradicate pancreatic cancer stem cells, which University of Michigan scientists discovered are key to understanding why the disease is so deadly
- Conducting leading-edge molecular diagnostics, sequencing the entire genome of pancreatic tumors to uncover the genetic underpinnings of the cancer's growth
- Creating highly targeted therapies designed to immediately improve outcomes for patients diagnosed today
This work gives pancreatic cancer patients hope as they face down this devastating disease. Even so, rapid progress against pancreatic cancer remains a great challenge-primarily because of scarce research funding. Pancreatic cancer remains an underfunded research area. The National Cancer Institute, the cancer branch of the NIH for instance, distributes just 1.7 percent of its budget to pancreatic cancer research. That means private funding is critical if groundbreaking research at U-M is to fast track to improved ability for early diagnosis and more effective treatments.
A New Model for Progress
The University of Michigan Health System has established the Pancreatic Cancer Center, which is part of U-M's Comprehensive Cancer Center, and comprises all pancreatic cancer research, care and education. Investments in the Pancreatic Cancer Center are critical to spur progress on what has been an intractable disease.
Naming the University of Michigan Pancreatic Cancer Center represents a unique opportunity to help lead the way toward better and more comprehensive pancreatic cancer care and to provide funding for highly innovative research being dine at University of Michigan. Experts spread across several fields of study work together at the Center to force significant progress against pancreatic cancer and combat this deadly disease. The chance to name the Center is the chance to leave a remarkable and lasting legacy in moving us down the path to put an end to pancreatic cancer.
An Endowed Research Fund:
This lasting discovery investment will provide much-needed seed funding for basic and translational research in pancreatic cancer. These funds will be dispersed by a committee to the highest priority research, helping scientists make the most vital and ground-breaking discoveries.
Clinical Support Fund:
Those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer must face down a grim prognosis. The Clinical Support Fund will expand patient and family services, including the creation of more support group options and an improved clinical experience for patients and families. Expanding these services will help strengthen patients and their families during this incredibly challenging time.
Pancreatic Cancer Professorship:
While the University of Michigan already is home to world-class pancreatic cancer researchers, attracting new and talented scientists is a key component in maintaining this level of work. This fund will support recruitment both of up-and-coming researchers and of the highest level of established experts in the field.
Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Fellowship:
Recruiting the finest clinicians to invest in additional years of subspecialty training requires financial support. An endowed Clinical Fellowship will ensure a pipeline of great clinicians are trained in the latest medical and surgical advances to provide the best care for those with pancreatic cancer in Michigan and across the world.
Pancreatic Cancer Research Fellowship:
These funds will be used to help support promising trainees to entice them to train in the area of pancreatic cancer research and to help conduct scientific studies in important areas of study.