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One man’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis sparks major initiative to change outcomes of the deadly disease

September 11, 2012

Found in News

Vancouver, B.C. – A new research effort at the BC Cancer Agency will seek to understand pancreatic cancer at the biological level, and to improve diagnosis, treatment and survival for patients. The 2012 BC Cancer Foundation Inspiration Gala will advance this momentous undertaking, known as the Pancreatic Cancer Research Initiative.

In the four short months between his pancreatic cancer diagnosis and his death, Bob Hager set the building blocks in place to initiate change and to inspire the development of a centre of excellence in pancreatic cancer research and care in B.C. 

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in Canada—75 per cent of patients don’t survive the first year post-diagnosis. The disease spreads quietly. Symptoms, if any, emerge when the disease is at a late stage. Once pancreatic cancer has advanced, treatment options are limited and usually offer little added time for patients. The B.C. Pancreatic Cancer Research Initiative is looking to change the grim reality of this deadly disease and offer hope to those diagnosed in the future.

Hager, retired co-founder of the Vancouver-based Phillips Hager & North investment firm, was enjoying a family vacation in Hawaii in March 2011. Less than two months later he was in hospital, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, had surgery and was advised that drug therapies would only offer a few added months of life.

“In Bob’s last four months, he lost 50 pounds, couldn’t sleep and suffered a tremendous amount of discomfort,” says Hager’s wife of 50 years, Judy. “He never complained. Instead, he took the opportunity to seize the time he had left and brought together experts from the BC Cancer Agency and Vancouver General Hospital to discuss a coordinated effort to improve pancreatic care and research.”

Pancreatic cancer has long been underfunded and in need of a champion, and Hager was determined to become this catalyst of positive change.

Less than a year later, the talks Hager initiated have developed into a major new research Initiative, which the BC Cancer Foundation’s 2012 Inspiration Gala is proud to support.

“This Initiative made the last four months of Bob’s life worth living; it was his driving force,” says Judy, who believes research will make the difference. “Now is the time to press forward.”  

Nearly 600 British Columbians will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, and even with the most advanced and aggressive treatment, only 5 per cent of patients will make it to five years.

Dr. Daniel Renouf, medical oncologist with the BC Cancer Agency, specializes in clinical trials for pancreatic cancer. He believes B.C. has world-class expertise in key areas: genome sequencing, tumour tissue banking, surgical skill and clinical trials to make the Pancreatic Cancer Research Initiative a world leader in pancreatic cancer research and care.

“The tools,  technology and specialists right here in our own backyard are offering unprecedented opportunities to better understand, detect and treat pancreatic cancer more effectively than ever before,” says Dr. Renouf.

The BC Cancer Foundation’s Inspiration Gala takes place on November 1, 2012 at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel. As one of Vancouver’s premier fundraising galas, the event will further accelerate the Pancreatic Cancer Research Initiative. Hager’s daughters, Leslie and Shelley, sit on the Inspiration Gala committee and are both inspired by a future where patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have reason to hope. 


For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Allison Colina, Communications Specialist
BC Cancer Foundation
t. 604.707.5934
e. allison.colina@bccancer.bc.ca.



The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. For more information, visit www.bccancer.ca.