Pancreatic Cancer: The facts are not good
Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form within the pancreas. The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach and in front of the spine, and responsible for producing digestive juices and hormones that regulate blood sugar. Cells called exocrine pancreas cells produce the digestive juices, while cells called endocrine pancreas cells produce the hormones. The majority of pancreatic cancers are in the exocrine or duct cells.
Every day, an estimated 150 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and about 120 people will die from the disease. Most cancers of the pancreas are ductal adenocarcinomas, with two-thirds of tumors arising in the head of the pancreas. Ductal adenocarcinomas are generally poorly demarcated tumors that are characterized by atypical cells forming irregular, often complex and incomplete, tubular or glandular structures, embedded in a dense barrier. Frequently, ductal adenocarcinomas have spread beyond the pancreas into adjacent tissues at time of diagnosis.
One of the major challenges of pancreatic cancer that contributes to its poor survival rates is its resistance to many treatments such as chemotherapy. Heterogeneity of the tumor, the dense fibroblastic stroma, and the aggressive biology of the tumor all contribute to it being a difficult to treat tumor. Furthermore, as the aggressive tumor grows into adjacent tissues, it can invade into the liver or the stomach, and more often invades into critical blood vessels, rendering the tumor inoperable. As surgical resection is currently the only chance for cure, a locally advanced tumor that is inoperable leaves patients in a state where only palliative care may be offered. ACT is developing a technology that will convert patients with locally advanced inoperable disease into candidates for surgical resection, by shrinking the tumor away from these vital structures, improving quality of life and extending survival.