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Immunotherapy for Pancreatic Cancer
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What Makes Immunotherapy a Promising Treatment for Pancreatic Cancer?

Reviewed By: Elizabeth Jaffee, M.D.
Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

Pancreatic cancer is the world's most lethal cancer, and the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, with a survival rate of less than 7%—the only cancer with a survival rate of less than 10%. There are currently no treatments found to be effective in the long term for patients with advanced disease who are ineligible for surgery, a prognosis representing the majority of pancreatic cancer diagnoses. Pancreatic cancer is significantly more resistant to chemotherapy in comparison to other cancer types, leaving patients with fewer options when it comes to treating the disease in its earlier stages.

As the number of pancreatic cancer cases are increasing worldwide, new and more effective therapies are needed to improve the outlook for patients with earlier stage cases. Immune-based approaches to treatment of the disease—a cancer that is often very difficult to detect in its early stages—are showing significant potential in treating both early and advanced cases of the disease.

Currently, the only treatment for pancreatic cancer that has any chance of curing the patient of the disease is complete surgical resection, a procedure only viable to fewer than 20% of those diagnosed. Many patients who do proceed with surgery will ultimately relapse and succumb to the disease, pointing to the great need for more powerful treatments that account for and eliminate any residual, post-op presence of the cancer itself in order to prevent eventual relapse.

Due to its consistently poor outlook and the current void in effective treatment options, pancreatic cancer patients are highly encouraged to seek clinical trials in all cases beyond localized, surgically optimal tumors. Some pancreatic cancer immunotherapies have shown promising results in early-stage clinical trials, including: checkpoint inhibitors/immune modulators, therapeutic vaccines, adoptive cell transfer, monoclonal antibodies, oncolytic viruses, adjuvant immunotherapies, and cytokines.

Are you a patient or caregiver interested in learning more about cancer immunotherapy treatment and clinical trials? If so, visit our Patient section on immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer.

CRI's Impact on Pancreatic Cancer

At CRI, we are dedicated to improving the quality of life and prognostic landscape for patients diagnosed with this destructive disease. With the aid of our donor network, we continue to provide funding to leading scientists working in the field of pancreatic cancer research and treatment.

Immunotherapy has the potential to improve the outlook for patients and families affected and bring us ever closer to effective, lasting cures for pancreatic cancer. Donate today to support our work to develop new immune-based pancreatic cancer treatments.

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