HOPE From Home

Pancreatic cancer can’t wait—and neither can we.

It’s safe to assume the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on everyone. Almost overnight, we’ve all had to make dramatic transitions to cope with this new reality and to protect ourselves and our communities. Added to that are the very real concerns about the impact COVID-19 will have on those battling pancreatic cancer. We’ve heard from many of you who want to remain engaged with and to help the pancreatic cancer community, so we’ve launched a new opportunity for you to provide the entire Lustgarten family with a little bit of HOPE

“HOPE From Home” is designed to provide you, our valued supporters, a variety of opportunities to support our mission even while social distancing at home. Your participation can help us raise critical funds for pancreatic cancer research and awareness about this dreaded disease. You can show your neighborhood, community and on-line network that pancreatic cancer can’t wait—and neither can we.

Drug Combination Could Boost the Effectiveness of Immunotherapy against Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most challenging cancers to treat. In part, that’s because pancreatic tumors tend to be surrounded by scar tissue. This dense layer prevents cancer medicines and cancer-fighting immune cells from penetrating to the interior.

A new study from Scott Lowe’s lab in the Sloan Kettering Institute, published March 31 in the journal Cell, provides evidence that a two-drug combination can make pancreatic tumors more sensitive to cancer-fighting medicines by breaching their defensive shell.

Why pancreatic cysts doesn’t mean you have cancer

The pancreas is one of the hardest-working organs in our body.

It’s a power-house for fueling your body, keeping your blood sugar in balance, but also helping in digesting food. But it’s one even experts don’t understand completely. And there’s one problem that’s especially misunderstood. Sometimes, during abdominal scans for other reasons, doctors discover cysts on the pancreas. “People always get that confused; they think anything on the pancreas is automatically cancer,” says Dr. Sanjay Reddy, an oncologic surgeon at Fox Chase Cancer Center. But Dr. Reddy says the majority are benign cysts.

New blood test can detect 50 types of cancer

System uses machine learning to offer new way to screen for hard-to-detect cancers.

A new blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer has been revealed by researchers in the latest study to offer hope for early detection. The test is based on DNA that is shed by tumours and found circulating in the blood. More specifically, it focuses on chemical changes to this DNA, known as methylation patterns. Researchers say the test can not only tell whether someone has cancer, but can also shed light on the type of cancer they have.

How to Cope with COVID-19 as a
Pancreatic Cancer Patient

Since the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was officially declared a pandemic, more and more states across the country are asking people to stay home to help flatten the curve and prevent overwhelming hospitals. But for pancreatic cancer patients, this news may seem incredibly alarming, especially when actively undergoing treatment and faced with the possibility of postponing regularly scheduled medical appointments.

Here are some ways pancreatic cancer patients can maintain their care while navigating the challenging and changing landscape around COVID-19:

  1. Minimize your exposure to the virus: Cancer patients are strongly encouraged to stay home and self-isolate to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.“It’s well established that patients with cancer are more susceptible to infections than healthy individuals; this is due mostly to a compromised immune system, especially for those who are undergoing chemotherapy or recently completed chemotherapy or are taking an immunosuppressive drug like a steroid,” explains Dr. Allyson Ocean, a gastrointestinal oncologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medicine and co-founder of Lustgarten Foundation affiliate Let’s Win. Be sure to confirm you appointment with your medical team before all scheduled appointments. To minimize exposure, patients may be asked to reschedule physician appointments deemed not medically necessary, or to follow different procedures for arriving at their care center for treatment.

Ask your care team what precautions they and their family members should take before arriving. 

  • Should they come prepared with a mask and gloves?
  • Will they sit in a general waiting room or will they be taken to a separate area?
  • Is the hospital limiting the number of family members or guests per patient?
  1. Use telemedicine to connect with your care team: If medical appointments are non-life-threatening and need to be rescheduled, request a virtual visit via telemedicine, if possible. Thanks to ever-expanding technology, it’s easier than ever to quickly converse with your doctor over secure, HIPPA-compliant platforms without the added risk of accidental exposure from in-person visits. Telemedicine appointments may be covered by insurance, but check with your insurance provider for specific details and associated costs. For patients without access to a computer, these visits may even be held over the phone.
  2. Talk to your doctor to see if keeping your chemotherapy appointment is the right option: Since pancreatic cancer patients could be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and may experience more serious symptoms from the virus, talk to your doctor about whether continuing any treatment during this time is the right option for your specific case. Patients should also speak with their doctor about the possibility of contracting COVID-19 and what to do should that situation arise.

Questions to ask your doctor:

  • How will COVID-19 affect my treatment plan? Is there anything I need to do differently?
  • What precautions has your office/treatment site put in place to limit my exposure?
  • If I contracted COVID-19, would I need to be hospitalized or would I be cared for at home?*

*It might be a good idea for a patient to prepare in advance if they think any kind of services such as nursing or palliative care will be needed in the near future. We suggest being mindful under these extreme conditions.

  1. Consider joining an online support group: For patients who feel isolated during this time, joining an online support group such as our Pancreatic Cancer Connections, in partnership with Let’s Win and Inspire, a leading healthcare social network, may be a helpful resource. Pancreatic Cancer Connections provides a safe space for pancreatic cancer patients and their loved ones to share their experiences, gain valuable coping resources, and support one another. Patients and loved ones can sign up for Pancreatic Cancer Connections at no cost and will be welcomed into an engaging and supportive community.
  2. Call us at the Lustgarten Foundation:Though we are currently working remotely, we are still available to answer your questions. If you are a pancreatic cancer patient, caregiver, survivor or loved one please reach out to us with questions about pancreatic cancer. Our Patient Information Coordinator can provide you with valuable information and may be able to help you attain the resources you need during this challenging time.

We understand these are uncertain times for everyone—but especially for pancreatic cancer patients navigating treatment and care. Now and always, the Lustgarten Foundation is committed to providing you with pertinent information to help ease your fears and we stand ready to guide you to the best of our ability. Patients may wish to regularly check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) and the World Health Organization(WHO) for the most up-to-date and reliable information regarding COVID-19.

Pancreatic cancer research

Pancreatic cancer research interview with a leading oncologist, Dr. Matthew Weiss

Dr. Matthew Weiss is one of the nation’s leading surgical oncologists, specializing in surgery for liver and pancreatic cancer, and benign hepatopancreatobiliary diseases, with specific expertise in minimally-invasive approaches. Read our insightful Q&A with Dr. Matthew Weiss.

What role does surgery play in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, and why is surgery so important? 

Surgery is the only potential option for a cure, and even if a patient isn’t cured, surgery usually extends a patient’s life. The big problem, however, is that most patients presenting today already have metastatic disease, which means their pancreatic cancer has spread to distant organs. Surgery is unlikely to  benefit these patients, which is why we need a way to detect this cancer earlier, when surgery is still possible. But the message patients and their loved ones need to hear is that today more patients are becoming candidates for surgery than in the past, and there is hope. The entire paradigm is shifting. Statistics show that only about 20 percent of people upon diagnosis of pancreatic cancer are clear-cut surgical candidates. They have localized disease, meaning the cancer has not spread to distant sites and we can remove it from the pancreas. Another 25 to 30 percent of patients have borderline resectable or locally advanced disease, and most of these patients are now candidates for operations that they would not have been candidates for in the past. This means that many more patients are now living longer and have the potential for a cure.  

What’s caused the shift for borderline resectable patients and for those with locally advanced disease? 

In patients with borderline resectable disease, the cancer hasn’t spread to other organs, but the cancer involves blood vessels, which makes surgery more challenging. Our ultimate goal is for  the cancer to be removed surgically with clean margins, so that no portion of the tumor is left behind. In patients with locally advanced disease, their tumors have more extensive involvement of blood vessels around the pancreas and their cancer may have grown into surrounding organs. Up until now, surgery was not always a viable option because there was a high likelihood of leaving a  portion of the tumor behind or having the disease return quickly.

About Matthew Weiss, M.D.

Dr. Matthew Weiss has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and has participated in numerous clinical trials in leadership positions. He is a member of the American College of Surgeons, the Society of Surgical Oncology, the American HepatoPancreato-Biliary Association, the International HepatoPancreato-Biliary Association, the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, the Association for Academic Surgery,  the Society of University Surgeons, and the Halsted Society. Dr. Weiss currently serves as deputy physician-in-chief and director of surgical oncology at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute. Prior to this position, Dr. Weiss served as the Paul K. Neumann Professor of Pancreatic Cancer at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He earned his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College and performed oncology research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He trained in general surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and completed a research fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital in immunology. He completed clinical fellowships at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in both surgical oncology and hepatopancreatobiliary surgery.

As the largest private funder of pancreatic cancer research, Lustgarten Foundation is relentlessly focused on improving patient outcomes. Join our community of dedicated donors, walkers, volunteers, event organizers and fundraisers who understand that research is the only way forward. 

Artificial Intelligence: A Game Changer for Pancreatic Cancer Research

What does artificial intelligence (AI) have to do with helping doctors detect pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage? As it turns out, a lot.

AI refers to machines programmed to mimic human reasoning with the goal of learning from failure and providing the best recommendation for a specific subject. In the case of pancreatic cancer, a disease with a five-year survival rate in the single digits that is often detected too late, this revolutionary technology could be a game changer for patients.

Our Response to COVID-19

How Lustgarten is Responding to COVID-19

A letter from the CEO

Hi and thank you for checking in with the Lustgarten Foundation to learn more about our response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Seemingly overnight, COVID-19 has dramatically changed the world in which we live. I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are well.

We at the Lustgarten Foundation are doing our best to follow the CDC guidelines, practice social distancing and to help flatten the curve. As of Tuesday, March 17, all staff are working remotely, but we are staying in touch with one another and continue to be here for you. Though images from major cities and small towns across the country almost make it feel that life has stopped, we know the fight against pancreatic cancer cannot wait.

For now, we have postponed or cancelled all events through the end of May—if you were already registered for one of these events, you should have received an email with everything you need to know. If you missed the email or are just now considering registering for an event, we’ve posted all the details below. Of course, if you have questions about pancreatic cancer, fundraising, walks or anything else, please get in touch. Call us tollfree at 866-789-1000 or send an email to contactus@lustgarten.org. We check the messages daily and one of us will get back to you as soon as possible.

To keep up with the latest pancreatic cancer research information and Lustgarten Foundation activities, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

We know this is a difficult and uncertain time, and we also know we will get through this together. Please follow the recommendations of your healthcare provider and practice social distancing as much as possible (but remember, Skype and FaceTime are great options to keep you connected with friends and family) and stay healthy and safe.



Kerri Kaplan,
President and CEO

Improvements in screening may be linked to increase in early-stage pancreatic cancer diagnoses

Increases in the proportion of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage and younger age may be due to improvements in early detection and diagnosis, according to study results published in Journal of National Cancer Institute.

“This research was prompted by our own experience undertaking pancreatic screening,” Michael Goggins, MD, professor of pathology, medicine and oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the early detection research laboratory at Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins, told Healio.

OncoSil granted FDA Breakthrough Device Designation

OncoSil Medical Ltd (ASX:OSL) today announced that the OncoSilTM device has reached a significant milestone, receiving Breakthrough Device Designation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of unresectable locally advanced pancreatic cancer in combination with systemic chemotherapy.

OncoSilTM is a targeted radioactive isotope (Phosphorus-32) that’s implanted directly into a patient’s pancreatic tumours via an endoscopic ultrasound. The treatment by this device delivers more concentrated and localised beta radiation compared with external beam radiation.

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