Marvin lived less than a month after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year. The pancreas regulates blood sugar and because it's located behind the stomach, it's easy for tumors to hide. Chemotherapies rarely work, so Houston researchers believe the answer may lie in different treatments for different tumors.
There aren't more people with pancreatic cancer. It just seems like it. Action 13's Marvin Zindler died of the lethal cancer a year ago Tuesday. Patrick Swayze was diagnosed with it in March. Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch, who made the famous "Last Lecture," died of pancreatic cancer Friday.
"The rates of pancreatic cancer aren't really increasing," said Dr. Robert Wolff. "We hope the rate of pancreatic cancer -- the incidents of pancreatic cancer -- starts to fall in this country as people smoke less and less."
But obesity is also a factor and that worries experts greatly. Dr. Wolff was Marvin's doctor. In the year since Marvin died, scientists have learned about a link between prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer.
"There may be specific genetic mutations that put people at risk for cancers like prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer," said Dr. Wolff.
M.D. Anderson scientists are looking for those gene mutations and have tested things like gene therapy, even curcumin pills.
"In some patients, the curcumin was able to stop the growth of the pancreatic cancer for a period of time. But the problem is, giving curcumin as an oral medication did not really get enough of the drug into the bloodstream to make it effective," said Dr. Wolff.
Now, they're working on a curcumin IV.
Pancreatic cancer is tough to beat for three reasons:
Dr. Wolff says watch for any evidence of weight loss with pain. The only cure is surgery, if it's not too advanced. He hopes the Zindler Research Fund will help them develop different treatments based on the genes of each patient's cancer.
"Obviously, everyone in Houston misses Marvin very much and it was a great privilege for me to care for him and I miss him as one of my patients," said Dr. Wolff.
The Marvin Zindler Fund for Pancreatic Cancer Research at M.D. Anderson has received 733 gifts totaling more than $58,500. If you would like to participate, you can call M.D. Anderson at 713-792-3450 or visit their website. You can also email Giving@MDAnderson.org.
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