Pancreatic Cancer

Dr. Daniel Renouf - Pancreatic Cancer Research, BC Cancer
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Elissa Morrissette
Vice President, Development

The tenth most common cancer in Canada, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death. Due to an aging population, and unless more effective treatment strategies are discovered, pancreatic cancer is expected to be the second leading cause of cancer death by 2030.

  • This year, more than 800 British Columbians will be diagnosed with the disease.
  • Difficult to detect at an early stage, and resistant to treatment, 75% of pancreatic cancer patients die within a year of diagnosis.
  • Only 10% (80 of the 800 people diagnosed in B.C.) will live five years.

Donors Can Create Change — The Hager Family’s Story

Ten years ago, only a small group of researchers in B.C. were focused on this hard-to-treat cancer. Now, BC Cancer is an international leader in pancreatic cancer research and care with a groundbreaking Rapid Access Clinic (designed to reduce the time between diagnosis and treatment) and a hereditary cancer testing program that is the first government-funded program of its kind in Canada.

This is largely thanks to the courage and tenacity of Bob Hager who — in the four short months between his diagnosis and death in 2011 — gathered a team of experts from BC Cancer, UBC and Vancouver General Hospital, and invested $1 million in his deep belief that collaboratively they could do something about this disease.

In 2012, Pancreas Centre BC (PCBC) was launched. Co-directed by BC Cancer’s Dr. Daniel Renouf and VGH’s Dr. David Schaeffer, its mission is to improve outcomes for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer through advances in early detection and the development of more personalized treatment options.

As PCBC celebrates its 10-year anniversary, the Hager family (Judy Hager and her daughters Leslie Carter and Shelley Ferris) are building on what Bob so selflessly started with an incredible $5 million investment (the largest gift to pancreatic cancer in B.C. history) which will be matched by BC Cancer Foundation and VGH for a total of $10 million.

The Hagers ongoing involvement, and passion to ensure that the program is growing and research is moving forward, is ultimately translating into better availability of treatment, testing and outcomes for patients. This latest investment is extremely generous, and will allow us to take things to the next level.

Dr. Daniel Renouf, Co-Director, Pancreas Centre BC

Rapid Access to Care Will Save Lives

For patients facing pancreatic cancer, time is precious. Patients often need to be seen by several specialists and there can be significant delays in arranging these appointments and subsequent tests. Unfortunately, during this time the cancer can progress.

Since its inception, the Rapid Access Clinic has helped reduce the time elapsed between diagnosis and the start of treatment, significantly reducing stress for patients and their families facing pancreatic cancer. The Rapid Access Clinic supports patients by:

  • Consolidating specialist consults in a single day.
  • Expediting testing.
  • Performing cutting-edge genetic profiling at the time of diagnosis, leading to tailored therapies for each individual patient.
  • Creating an invaluable support network of nurse practitioners that guide patients through the process and help coordinate appointments with other specialists.

Biobank Program Analyzes Tumour Samples to Better Understand the Disease

Thanks to donor support, Pancreas Centre BC established the Biobank and Genetic Evaluation Program for Patients with Advanced Pancreatic Cancer in 2015. The main focus of the Biobank Program is to determine genetic changes associated with pancreatic cancer.

Current aims include collecting pancreatic cancer tissue from patients with advanced disease, making metastatic cancer tissue available to researchers through the biobank, and identifying genetic changes associated with advanced pancreatic cancer.

Although the risk factors for pancreatic cancer are not well known, it is known that there’s a genetic link to the disease through BRCA1/2 and other gene mutations, which can lead to an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer for some individuals and families. By identifying a hereditary risk, BC Cancer experts can help stop pancreatic cancer before it starts.

Clinical Trials Support Innovative Treatment Options

The Biobank Program also helps support a multi-site clinical trial called PanGen (Prospectively Defining Metastatic Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma Subtypes by Comprehensive Genomic Analysis).

PanGen is an innovative study that involves sequencing metastatic tumours in the hopes of better understanding the pathways that are driving growth and identifying more effective treatment. Researchers closely monitor patients from the time of diagnosis through treatment, genetically sequencing tumours and evaluating treatment response with regular blood tests and imaging.

By applying personalized genomic analysis to pancreatic cancer tumours, the PanGen team hopes to identify unique biomarkers that will result in more effective treatments.

Help BC Cancer improve outcomes by donating today to improve early detection and develop better treatments for people facing pancreatic cancer.