A Snapshot of Pancreatic Cancer
Incidence and Mortality
In the United States, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in both men and women. In 2013, more than 45,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and more than 38,000 will die of this disease. Because pancreatic cancer usually is diagnosed at an advanced stage, the survival rate is extremely low compared with those of many other cancer types. The pancreatic cancer incidence rate has increased since 1999, and the mortality rate also has increased slightly since 2000.
African Americans have higher rates of pancreatic cancer incidence and mortality than whites or other racial/ethnic groups. Pancreatic cancer incidence and mortality rates also are higher in men than in women.
Cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for pancreatic cancer, accounting for approximately 20 percent of cases. Additional risk factors include longstanding diabetes, inflammation of the pancreas, obesity, and certain hereditary conditions. Early-stage pancreatic cancer is asymptomatic, and there is no routine screening test for pancreatic cancer. Standard treatments for pancreatic cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, chemoradiation, and targeted therapy.
It is estimated that approximately $2.3 billion1 is spent in the United States each year on pancreatic cancer treatment.
Examples of NCI Activities Relevant to Pancreatic Cancer
- The Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) is identifying and testing new biomarkers to enhance cancer detection and risk assessment. One EDRN-supported project is studying stem cell biomarkers for early detection of pancreatic cancer.
- The Pancreatic Cancer Epidemiology Consortia are three research consortia that bring together scientists from diverse biomedical disciplines to improve understanding of the causes and natural history of pancreatic cancer.
- NCI's Pilot Studies in Pancreatic Cancer funding effort supports small, innovative research projects that are focused on the biology, etiology, detection, prevention, and treatment of this cancer.
- The Tumor Microenvironment Network (TMEN) is exploring the role of the microenvironment—the cells and blood vessels that feed a tumor—in tumor initiation and progression. Network investigators are studying the interaction between pancreatic tumors and their microenvironment during pancreatic cancer development.
- NCI's Cancer Genomics Research Laboratory (CGR) was established to study how inherited genetic variations contribute to cancer susceptibility and outcomes, including in pancreatic cancer.
- The Pancreatic Cancer Interest Group promotes the exchange of information, enhances interactions, and fosters collaborations among scientists who are working on various aspects of pancreatic cancer.
- Two pancreatic-cancer-specific Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPOREs) are conducting research to facilitate early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Selected Advances in Pancreatic Cancer Research
- By examining circulating tumor cells from a mouse model of pancreatic cancer and from humans with the disease, researchers identified a signaling pathway that contributes to pancreatic cancer metastasis. Published July 2012. [PubMed Abstract]
- A polyphenol found in green tea inhibited tumor growth in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer. Published September 2012. [PubMed Abstract]
- Reduced levels of TNF-receptor-associated factor 2 (TRAF2) protein led to increased growth of pancreatic cancer cells in the laboratory, revealing details of a pathway that is a potential target for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Published January 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- Results of a phase I clinical trial testing the addition of ascorbate to gemcitabine for the control of metastatic pancreatic cancer demonstrated that the therapy was well tolerated and provided indications of efficacy that warrant further study. Published February 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- See this PubMed list of selected free full-text journal articles on NCI-supported research relevant to pancreatic cancer. You can also search PubMed for additional scientific articles or to complete a search tutorial.
Trends in NCI Funding for Pancreatic Cancer Research
The National Cancer Institute's (NCI) investment2 in pancreatic cancer research increased from $87.3 million in fiscal year (FY) 2008 to $105.4 million in FY 2012. In addition to this funding, NCI supported $14.3 million in pancreatic cancer research in FY 2009 and FY 2010 using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).3
Additional Resources for Pancreatic Cancer
- What You Need To Know About™ Cancer of the Pancreas
Describes possible risks, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for someone recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
- NCI Pancreatic Cancer Home Page
NCI's gateway for information about pancreatic cancer.
- Pancreatic Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)
Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
- Clinical Trials for Pancreatic Cancer
- 1 Cancer Trends Progress Report, in 2010 dollars.
- 2 The estimated NCI investment is based on funding associated with a broad range of peer-reviewed scientific activities. For additional information on research planning and budgeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), see About NIH.
- 3 For more information regarding ARRA funding at NCI, see Recovery Act Funding at NCI.