Fund A Cure for Pancreatic Cancer is a 501(c)(3) charity whose purpose is to raise money for much needed pancreatic cancer research. We target our funding towards researchers exploring novel methods to kill pancreatic cancer cells and develop new therapies to combat the deadliest of all major cancers.
Board of Directors
Fund a Cure for Pancreatic Cancer was started by the Robert L Ciervo and Gail (Ciervo) Szigeti family on June 6, 2008 in honor of their father Louis J. Ciervo, Jr.'s fight against pancreatic cancer to promote awareness of the lack of adequate funding for pancreatic cancer research. Since its founding, Fund a Cure has grown to include other families that have been touched by this disease, and has donated over $180k to Jefferson University Hospital, one of the nation's premier research groups in the fight against Pancreatic Cancer, funding important clinical trial research.
Gail C. Szigeti - Gail is the daughter of Louis J. Ciervo, Jr. and is committed to ensuring that more funding is dedicated to combat this lethal disease. Gail also resides in Newtown with her husband Oscar Szigeti III, son Oscar Szigeti IV and daughter Amelia. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Leibowitz - Jennifer is the daughter of Phyllis Geisler who lost her fight against pancreatic cancer on March 23, 2001. Jennifer resides in the Washington, D.C. area in Rockville, MD and can be reached at email@example.com.
Amy Benchener - Amy is the daughter of Greg Frizzell who lost his two month fight against pancreatic cancer on November 2, 2005 at only 49 years of age. Amy lives in Newtown, PA with her husband Matt and son Jackson, and daughter Addison and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic Cancer is a disease that afflicts nearly 37,000 U.S. residents each year and unfortunately claims over 33,000 lives in the U.S. each year as well (and an estimated 60,000 lives in Europe). For cancer research funding facts see more information here.
The pancreas is a vital organ that is necessary for the human digestion process to function. It is a gland about 6 inches long found deep in the abdomen directly behind the stomach, below the liver and above the small and large intestines. The pancreas is responsible for insulin and glucagon production which help to control the amount of sugar in the blood stream and how food is converted to energy. It also produces pancreatic juices which contain enzymes to help digest food properly. The juices are released through a system of ducts that lead to the bile duct and then to the duodenum which is the portion of the small intestine that connects to the stomach. Without a properly working pancreas one cannot live as the body will not be able to digest food properly.
The disease of pancreatic cancer starts when cells in the pancreas grow to form a mass of tissue that becomes a tumor. If the tumor is found to be malignant then the tumor is classified as cancerous and the tumor can grow to not only disrupt the functioning of the pancreas but can invade other organs. Most often the cancer begins in the ducts that carry the pancreatic juices.
After the tumor is formed cancer cells can break off of the original tumor in the pancreas and travel to other organs in the body through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. When this occurs the original pancreatic cancer has metastasized and the cancer can appear in the liver, stomach, lungs, bones, lymphatic system or anywhere in the body. Though the cancer is now in another part of the body the cancer is still classified as pancreatic cancer as the pancreatic cancer cells are different than other cancer cells and are much more resistant to chemotherapy or any currently available treatments. This is why the disease is so deadly and currently the 5 year post diagnosis survival rate is only 8%.The most common form of pancreatic cancer, which accounts for 75% of all cases, is called adenocarcinoma and it is a non-endocrine type of pancreatic cancer. There is an endocrine type of pancreatic cancer that begins in the cells that produce insulin which is called islet cell cancer and this represents less than 5% of all cases. This carcinoma can occur in either the head, middle or tail of the pancreas. The location of the tumor can play a significant role in how early the cancer is detected, treatment options, and survival rate.
Tumors in the head of the pancreas that may effect the functioning of the liver and bile duct will cause a person to experience jaundice which is a yellowing of the skin. Tumors located in the middle or tail of the pancreas may not be noticed until they are so large that their size actually causes patients to have back or abdominal pain.
The only effective treatment for pancreatic cancer that can significantly extend life after diagnosis is the surgical removal of the tumor. Unfortunately, only approximately 20-25% of patients have a tumor small enough to be removed and do not have cancer cells already metastasized in other organs in the body. This is the most significant reason why the median post diagnosis survival time is only 6 months for all pancreatic cancer patients. Currently there are extremely inadequate detection methods to determine if someone has a pancreatic cancer tumor short of monthly cat scans of the abdomen.
The most common surgical procedure for resectable tumors in the head of the pancreas is called the Whipple procedure or a pancreatoduodenectomy. In this procedure a surgeon removes the head of the pancreas, almost the entire bile duct, the gall bladder, most of the duodenum and also at times a significant portion of the stomach. This is an attempt to remove all of the pancreatic cancer cells in the tissue close to the original tumor to avoid a recurrence of the disease in the pancreas or surrounding organs. A more detailed description and visual diagrams of the procedure can be found on the Mayo Clinic website here.
Other surgical options include a distal pancreatectomy, a total pancreatectomy and portal vein resection surgery in combination with a pancreatduodenectomy.
Research has demonstrated that the risks associated with surgery are reduced when patients choose surgeons that practice in high volume surgical centers. It is extremely important for those who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer to find a competent surgeon in a high volume center to review their medical records to determine if surgery is an option. Also it is recommended to get at least two different opinions from surgeons about the possibility of surgery and the expected outcomes.
For those who are unable to have surgery both chemotherapy and radiation are treatment options though it must be stressed there is no known cure for pancreatic cancer. Chemotherapy agents such as gemcitabine, while the standard treatment for pancreatic cancer, will not cure someone of pancreatic cancer but perhaps slow the cancer down and extend a patient's life by months. Often patients who have surgery, but who are found to have cancer cells in the tissue or lymph nodes around the tumor after surgery, are placed on a treatment of radiation and chemotherapy in an attempt to kill the remaining cells. Unfortunately once pancreatic cancer metastasizes it is almost always fatal which is why the five year survival rate is so low.
*Information above gathered from a variety of sources including MayoClinic.com and "What You Need To Know About Cancer of the Pancreas", National Cancer Institute (NCI), 2001. A copy of that booklet can be obtained by calling 1-800-4-CANCER