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.

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