More people are dying from pancreatic cancer in T&T than in the United States, although the rate of incidents for the disease are higher in the US where it is the 11th most common form of cancer.

According to Dr Jordan M. Winter, a surgeon who has researched the disease, the higher mortality rate may have to do with the fact that pancreatic cancer is being detected here at a later stage

Dr Winter, who will be making a presentation at today’s 4th Distinguished Lecture Series on Pancreatic Cancer hosted by the John E. Sabga Foundation, said with earlier detection pancreatic cancer can be cured, so it is important to pay attention to symptoms and seek medical help.

“Months do matter with this disease,” he said.

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting and decreased appetite, Dr Winter said.

“But there are three symptoms you must pay attention to that are clearly linked to pancreatic cancer. One is unexplained weight loss. You’re losing weight but you’re not trying. Worsening diabetes and new-onset diabetes. The third is depression and anxiety at a later stage in life,” he said.

Anyone experiencing a cluster of these syndromes should consult a doctor and do follow-ups a month, then three months later if there isn’t a conclusive diagnosis.

Dr Winter is the Chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Centre and Director of Surgical Services at UH Seidman Cancer Centre in Cleveland, Ohio. His area of specialisation is the medical and surgical management of pancreatic and related cancers and he is recognised as a leader in translational and basic research.

He is the director of the Winter Lab which is at the forefront of investigational efforts to find alternative treatments for pancreatic cancer. Research is focused on how pancreatic cancer cells survive in their microenvironment and identifying their metabolic weaknesses to discover new and effective therapies.

He has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and a dozen book chapters, many of which focus on pancreatic cancer.

Dr Winter and his team have discovered that a cancer drug designed against one protein has potent anti-tumour activity against a related protein which is especially necessary for the survival of pancreatic and other aggressive cancers. The drug works by interfering with survival pathways needed to overcome the nutrient-deprived environment, which is characteristic of these untreatable cancers.

“We see efficacy in every tumour we have tested to date, including ovarian, lung, colon, and melanoma. Mice with pancreatic cancer survive much longer with the drug, compared to placebo,” he explained

Dr Winter described it as “the most exciting line of investigation I have been a part of to date.”

The John E. Sabga Foundation has been working to raise awareness and provide education and support on pancreatic cancer. This evening’s lecture series is part of activities to mark Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.