Targeting hard-to-treat pancreatic cancer

In January 2010, Kelly Power buckled over from a sharp pain in her left side while she was at work. After visiting her doctor and undergoing tests, Kelly was stunned to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She underwent surgery to remove the tumour and has been cancer-free ever since.

Kelly knows she is one of the lucky ones. Because the pancreas is so deep in the abdomen, more than 60% of pancreatic cancers are diagnosed at a late stage and only 8% of people will live 5 years past their diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer is also relatively unresponsive to chemotherapy and radiation.

“If I hadn’t taken notice of the pain on that one day, my cancer may have spread,” says Kelly, who started working for the Canadian Cancer Society in Halifax, Nova Scotia after her diagnosis and 20 years after she started volunteering for the organization.

“My diagnosis reaffirmed for me the importance of early detection and the increased need to fund all types of cancers, especially those with some of the lowest survival rates,” she says.

Unlike the other leading causes of cancer death, there have been limited improvements in the prevention, detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer over time. This is why research discoveries, like those of CCS-funded Dr Shoukat Dedhar and his team at the BC Cancer Agency, are so important.

High levels of a protein called CAIX are found on the surface of tumour cells in many types of cancer, helping cancers to spread and resist therapy. Dr Dedhar and his team showed that blocking CAIX is a promising new therapeutic strategy for pancreatic cancer. This discovery is now being studied in a second clinical trial with the goal being to improve survival and quality of life of people with pancreatic cancer.

CCS is the largest national charitable funder of pancreatic cancer research in Canada. Help us support researchers like Dr Dedhar who are working to improve survival rates by donating today.