News from Illinois CancerCare

First Advancement for Pancreatic Cancer Treatment in 10 years Comes as Result of Genetic Testing

Pancreatic cancer has the reputation of being one of the toughest cancers to treat, and yet clinical cancer research is equally relentless in its search for better treatments and a cure. The current trend in cancer treatment has been personalized therapy.  Physicians are genetically testing more and more people to see why they have cancer and realizing that different genetic abnormalities of the same type of cancer are going to be treated very differently. In the case of pancreatic cancer, this has led to the first advancement in treatment seen in 10 years.

Dr. Michael Veeder, an Illinois CancerCare physician on the pancreatic cancer treatment team attended the national meeting where this groundbreaking treatment was announced. He states, “Due to results gathered from the clinical trial POLO (Pancreas Cancer Olaparib Ongoing), we now know that the 5% of people who have an inherited form of pancreatic cancer with BRCA1 and BRCA2  gene alterations benefitted from a maintenance drug olaparib (Lynparza) that inhibits the cancer from multiplying.” On December 27th, 2019, this treatment was approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and is now available at Illinois CancerCare for central Illinois patients.

This clinical research trial illustrates the importance of genomic testing in pancreatic patients to identify germline mutations including BRCA1, BRCA2, Lynch Syndrome mutations, FAMMM, and others. Through the generous philanthropy of the Theresa Tracy Strive to Survive organization, Illinois CancerCare physicians have been able to offer genomic screening for pancreatic cancer patients at no cost since 2016. Only in the last few months has genomic testing been covered by insurance, and even today some insurance will not cover the cost.

Genomic testing in pancreas cancer patients can now direct oncologists to FDA approved targeted therapy.  In addition, genetic information can inform family’s members who may not be aware of a familial risk. In 2018, this service was expanded to family members of pancreatic patients through Illinois Cancer Care’s Community Pancreatic Cancer Screening Clinic. Many pancreatic cancer patients in prior years passed away before they could get tested or were treated outside of the practice.

The genetic testing provided can help identify risk factors for developing many cancers. Medical professionals with training in cancer genetics are available to educate family members on what their results mean and provide guidance if follow up is needed. It is through services such as this that Illinois CancerCare continues to fulfill its mission of providing comprehensive, compassionate care that enhances the lives of patients and their families.

Illinois CancerCare continues to be a leader in oncology care by providing patients with groundbreaking services.  The Community Pancreatic Cancer Screening Clinic is open the 3rd Friday of every month to all community members 21 years of age or older that have a first or second degree relative that has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. To register, please call 309-243-3733.