The Times West Virginian

November 23, 2012

Passage of bill would spark hope in battle against pancreatic cancer

Times West Virginian

— Silent and aggressive.

Those are two words commonly used to describe pancreatic cancer, a deadly disease that will strike 44,000 Americans this year. That same disease will claim 37,000 lives.

It has just a 6 percent five-year survival rate, the lowest among all major cancer killers. And according to a recent report, the number of deaths attributed to the disease is on the rise, and it’s anticipated to become the second-largest cancer killer in the United States by 2020.

According to the Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Foundation, an organization committed to raising public awareness and understanding of pancreatic cancer, the disease is one of the most difficult to detect and diagnose early. In most cases, symptoms develop after the cancer has already spread, resulting in a diagnosis that is made when the cancer is in advanced stages.

Sadly, advocates who work to promote research of the deadly disease say it is under-represented and under-funded.

But that’s where groups like the Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Foundation come in. The organization’s mission, like so many others like it, is to reach the community with information about pancreatic cancer and make an impact to stimulate research for early detection and advance cancer treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Efforts don’t stop there. There is a bill before the U.S. Senate called the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act (formerly known as the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act) that addresses better allocation of funding for pancreatic cancer and other abdominal cancers.

Earlier this year, when the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the bill, Julie Fleshman, president and chief executive officer of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, applauded the move, calling it a “victory” and “a testament to what can be achieved when a group of people are fiercely determined to accomplish a common goal.”

“While we still have much work to do before making verifiable scientific advances against pancreatic cancer, this is an extremely important step forward,” Fleshman said. “Today, we have given tomorrow’s patients hope.”

Hope. That’s an encouraging word among such bitter statistics.

Hope for more funding.

Hope for more research.

Hope for a cure.

We hope more people take the time to learn about the disease. It’s especially important in November, which is recognized as National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

Cancer, no matter what type, can be a devastating diagnosis. And until there is a cure, work remains to be done.

That’s what makes the groups, volunteers and agencies working to promote the need for more research and funding so critical. Their tireless efforts will ultimately make a difference in the lives of those who are diagnosed with any form of cancer.

The Senate version of the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act will be considered in this lame-duck session of Congress. We hope it is passed swiftly, giving even more hope to those patients who need it.