• By Ian Roth

Mayo Clinic Minute: Advances in pancreatic cancer treatment extending lives

April 29, 2019

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, and such a diagnosis has long been considered a death sentence. But a study published by Dr. Mark Truty, a Mayo Clinic cancer surgeon, and his team of surgeons and oncologists, have found that with the right combination of treatments, they can add years to the lives of pancreatic cancer patients.

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Pancreatic cancer has long been one of the scariest diagnoses a doctor can make.

"Pancreas cancer is among the most deadly of cancers," Dr. Truty says. "It's the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States."

Dr. Truty specializes in operating on pancreatic cancer tumors. He and his team showed in their study that pancreatic cancer may no longer be a death sentence.

"Everyone in this study got treated the same way," he says. "They all got chemotherapy up front, followed by radiation therapy and then followed by an operation."

Dr. Truty says the more chemotherapy patients got before surgery, the better their outlook for recovery. And the prognosis is even better if they can kill most or all of the cancer before removing the tumor.

He says more effective types of chemotherapy, and the ability and willingness to consider more difficult operations, have helped patients in the study live up to five years longer — and still counting — than patients in the past.

He calls the treatment regimen a game changer that should give pancreatic cancer patients hope for a much longer life.

"I think it's huge," he says. "I mean, in our clinic we see a lot of patients who have been told their tumor is inoperable by standard criteria. But those criteria were all based on, you know, the previous technologies and techniques we've had. We've advanced. So now we can offer things to patients they never thought was possible."

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