the torch Winter 2015, Issue 4 - Page 16

F C U S O N R E S E A R C H Baylor to offer innovative clinical trial for one of the deadliest cancers P ancreatic cancer is currently the fourth-leading a new, more effective clinical trial option; make inoperable pancause of cancer-related death in the U.S. with a five-year creas cancer operable. The support also includes funds to collect survival rate of just seven percent. An estimated 72 per- samples from the patients in the clinical trial to discover reliable cent of patients die within the first year of diagnosis. biomarkers that are vital for early detection and for tracking during What makes pancreatic cancer so difficult to treat? For one, the surgery or chemotherapy. location of the pancreas deep in the abdominal cavUnder the direction of research investigators Dr. ity is a factor hindering early detection, when the canBecerra and Scott Celinski, M.D., director of the cerous cells could be surgically removed. In addition, Pancreas Cancer Research and Treatment Center, this pancreatic cancer may only cause vague symptoms clinical trial will combine the inflammation-reducing that could indicate many different conditions within drug, anakinra, with a three-drug chemotherapy regithe abdomen or gastrointestinal tract. The signs and men that was recently proven highly effective in a clinsymptoms — such as abdominal pain, back pain, yelical trial under the direction of Daniel Von Hoff, low skin and eyes, and weight loss — don’t typically M.D., senior research advisor and also physician-in-chief occur until the disease is advanced. at TGen, a research collaborator of Baylor. Anakinra For these reasons, it is vital not only to develop has recently shown great promise in a breast cancer clinDr. Carlos Becerra more effective treatments for pancreas cancer, but ical trial at Baylor, and since all the drugs to be used in also to find biomarkers and tests for early detection this trial already are FDA approved, it is expected to get that will alert physicians to the presence of the disunderway before the end of the year. ease before it progresses. “By giving patients the most effective chemotherAccording to Carlos Becerra, M.D., medical apy available before surgery, we can kill microscopic director of the Swim Across America Innovative cancer that has spread away from the original tumor Clinical Trials Center and assistant chief of oncology, and maximize our chances for a surgical cure of panthere is not a current standard of care for patients who creas cancer,” said Dr. Celinski. “This trial is importare candidates for surgery or who have locally ant in our pursuit of defeating pancreas cancer.” advanced disease. Chemotherapy and radiation have As additional funding becomes available, the samDr. Scott Celinski been used prior to surgery with modest success. ples collected from patients in the clinical trial will However, a better approach is still needed. be analyzed for circulating tumor-specific DNA. The aim of these “If we’re able to reduce the size of the tumor and make it pull analyses is to help identify reliable biomarkers that can be used as away from vital structures such as arteries, we may be able to resect a screening test for early detection or monitoring of the disease. with negative margins, giving the patient a better outcome and chance of survival,” said Dr. Becerra. For more information on how you can support innovative research initiaA generous contribution from The Jeanne Shelby Fund f