Your Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Options at Fox Chase

Edna Cukierman, PhD, researcher at Fox Chase Cancer Center and Co-Director, Marvin & Concetta Greenberg Pancreatic Cancer Institute, studies new treatment options for pancreatic cancer patients in her lab.
Edna Cukierman, PhD, researcher at Fox Chase Cancer Center and Co-Director, Marvin & Concetta Greenberg Pancreatic Cancer Institute, studies new treatment options for pancreatic cancer patients in her lab.

 

When treating a complex condition like pancreatic cancer, we believe the best outcomes will result from a multidisciplinary approach to your care. At Fox Chase Cancer Center, our pancreatic cancer team of surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, pathologists and radiologists work together closely to assess your cancer and help you understand your options, so you and your loved ones can make informed decisions about your treatment.

When you contact Fox Chase, you will be connected with a nurse navigator. The nurse navigator will match you with the right specialists and help you see as many members of your treatment team as possible in one day. Together, your care team weighs in on your case, creates a tailored plan, and meets weekly to discuss your progress during treatment.

Once we have determined where the cancer is located in relation to major blood vessels and whether it has spread beyond the pancreas, we will recommend a personalized treatment plan, which may include clinical trial options to consider. Fox Chase physicians are actively involved in developing many new therapies for pancreatic cancer.

Our team meets regularly to review each patient’s case and treatment progress. We strive to treat your condition in the least invasive way possible with innovative surgical techniques and combination therapies that give you the best chance of a successful outcome.

“The key factor in choosing Fox Chase Cancer Center for pancreatic cancer is the focus on more than one modality of therapy and the multidisciplinary approach. Combining chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to fight this disease has proven to be much more successful than one therapy alone.”

Sanjay Reddy, MD, FACS, Department of Surgical Oncology and co-chairman of The Marvin and Concetta Greenberg Pancreatic Cancer Institute at Fox Chase

Your Treatment Options

Fox Chase physicians embrace a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care. This means patients see a surgical oncologist, a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist to make decisions about their treatment plan. The course of treatment will be guided by where and how the tumor is situated:

  • Is the tumor completely separated from major blood vessels?
  • Is the tumor touching major blood vessels?
  • Is the tumor wrapped around major blood vessels?

Depending on your unique circumstances, your treatment for pancreatic cancer at Fox Chase will include one or more of the following methods:

  • Surgery: The goal of surgery is to remove all the cancer, along with some healthy tissue around the edge, called the surgical margin. The type of surgery you receive depends on the tumor’s location in the pancreas.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells or stop them from producing. It can be used to shrink tumors before surgery. For pancreatic cancer, radiation is often combined with chemotherapy.
  • Systemic therapy: Chemotherapy and targeted therapy both use drugs to treat cancer. Chemotherapy kills fast-growing cells throughout the body, including normal and cancer cells. Targeted therapy drugs specifically target cancer cells.
  • Clinical trials: The results of studies by Fox Chase physicians have been crucial in advancing our understanding of pancreatic cancer diagnosis and treatment around the world. Clinical trials act as a conduit to allow for novel approaches to treat the disease.  We are on the forefront of participating in both nationally recognized clinical trials, as well as instituting investigator initiated trials through research done through our pancreatic cancer institute. Ask your doctor if a clinical trial is a good option for you.

Order of Treatments

Many patients with pancreatic cancer will undergo more than one treatment. You may hear your physicians use certain terms to refer to those treatments and when they are administered. Following is an explanation of those common terms: 

  • Neoadjuvant: Treatment that shrinks the tumor before surgery
  • Adjuvant: Given after primary treatment to kill any remaining cancer cells
  • First-line: The first set of treatments given
  • Second-line: The next set of treatments given after the first or previous treatments were not sufficiently effective
“We start the process of the personalized treatment plan by getting to know the patient in terms of their cancer, but also their medical history more globally, as well as the approach they are comfortable with and how they want to be treated. In all our patients, no matter their condition, we are constantly trying to move the needle to decrease their symptoms, improve their outcomes, and enhance their quality of life.”

Joshua Meyer, MD, Department of Radiation Oncology and pancreatic cancer specialist