More than 43,000 Americans were expected to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010, and over 36,800 were expected to die from the disease. The incidence among African-Americans is 40 to 50 percent higher than other ethnic groups.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially over the past 40 years. As a result, in 2003, pancreatic cancer surpassed prostate cancer as the 4th leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.
Seventy-five percent of pancreatic cancer patients die within the first 12 months of the diagnosis. The 5-year survival rate is only 6 percent.
Scientific understanding of pancreatic cancer lags far behind that of most other forms of cancer. In fact, pancreatic cancer is the only one of the top 10 cancer killers in the U.S. that still has a 5-year survival rate in the single digits.
In 2001, the National Cancer Institute developed ‘Pancreatic Cancer: An Agenda for Action’. As of 2010, only 5 of the report’s 39 recommendations have been implemented because of a lack of funding, focus, and commitment.
Pancreatic cancer research funding constitutes 2 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s Federal research funding, a figure far too low given the severity of the disease, its mortality rate, and how little is known about how to arrest the disease.
Of the more than 6,200 research grants awarded in 2009 by the National Cancer Institute, only 272 (approximately 4 percent) were categorized by the Institute as at least 50 percent relevant to pancreatic cancer research.