SCOTTSDALE, AZ - A Valley health care provider is becoming a prime contributor to a national cancer study.
Doctors at the Virginia G. Piper cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare are joining the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team pancreatic cancer research project..
"The goal is to see if we can extend the lives of patients with the disease," explained Dr. Ramesh Ramanathan.
Extending the lives of pancreatic cancer patients would be a major breakthrough.
Right now, many patients succumb to the disease within a year of diagnosis.
"The problem is that the disease is often diagnosed late," said Dr. Ramanathan.
Pancreatic cancer can be a difficult disease to detect, and even tougher to treat even if it is diagnosed early.
The disease spreads quickly, and symptoms often do not appear until the cancer is in later stages.
The clinical trials aim to test new methods of treatment that could extend life.
One aspect involves "cutting off the fuel supply."
The focus is to deprive cancer cells of the nutrients they need to grow.
Other aspects include using a drug to break through the protective barrier around the cancer so drugs can easily enter and kill the cells.
Finally, the tumor will be examined on the molecular level so personalized, more targeted treatments can be developed.
"We're very excited about this," said Dr. Ramanathan.
It's also exciting for patients.
Joyce Schaffer is the patient care coordinator at the Virginia G. Piper cancer Center.
She says clinical trials don't always have to be last resort options.
"It's a huge myth," she said. "Clinical trials can be an option when the cancer isn't responding to standard treatment, but trials can be appropriate for first line treatment."
The pancreatic cancer trials are available for those who have just been diagnosed, or those who need more options.
"Through clinical trials, we can give patients a quantity and quality of life maybe they weren't expecting," explained Schaffer.
In addition to Scottsdale Health, other clinical research sites include the University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
The project if funded by an $18 million grant from Stand Up to Cancer.
The organization's second fundraising telethon will be broadcast Friday, Sept.10th at 8p.m. on television networks including ABC 15.
For more information on the pancreatic cancer study, or for questions about the trial, contact Scottsdale Healthcare.
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