Best Life: Detecting pancreatic cancer earlier than ever before

Best Life: New blood test could detect pancreatic cancer earlier

CLEVELAND, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A year ago, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek announced to the world he had stage four pancreatic cancer. It’s a devastating diagnosis. He had only an 18% chance to survive a year. Trebek beat the odds, but not everyone is as lucky.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved for more than 40 years! But now, a new way of detecting markers for this deadly disease in its earliest stages may help impact the chances of surviving it.

Oscar and Dexter are just what the doctor ordered. It’s been an exhausting year for Beverly Leighton after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She watched her mother and grandfather die from the disease and feared she would be next.

“Detecting it late is often a fatal sentence,” detailed Amitabh Chak, MD, a gastroenterologist at University Hospitals in Cleveland.

Doctors at University Hospitals in Cleveland are part of the CAPS 5 clinical trial to identify markers for detecting pancreatic cancer long before symptoms appear and before it spreads.

Dr. Chak explained, “The pancreas is not surrounded by a capsule. So the cancer tends to spread much more rapidly.”

By testing specific markers in blood and pancreatic fluid, doctors hope to find the cancer in its earliest stage.

For Bob Adelman, the yearly tests give this father of three peace of mind. His mother died of breast cancer. He and his sister tested positive for the BRCA1 gene, putting them both at high risk for pancreatic cancer.

Adelman told Ivanhoe, “I've got a lot riding on. I've got these three kids and I want to be here for them.”

So far so good for Adelman and his sister.

Marnie Fletcher said, “It wasn't really a hard decision at the time. It was like, I didn't feel like there were really any other options.”

The test caught Beverly Leighton’s cancer early—stage I. After surgery, chemo, and radiation Leighton believes this test is truly a lifesaver.

“Just feel blessed that all the stars aligned and I was in the right place at the right time to catch the cancer early,” explained Leighton.

There is no sure way to prevent pancreatic cancer. Some risk factors such as age, gender, race, and family history can’t be controlled. But Dr. Chak said obesity and smoking are two things you do have control over.

Also, limit your alcohol and your exposure to carcinogens. Patients in the trial are followed for ten years, with annual checkups and testing. They are still accepting patients into the trial. To find out more, log on to

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer, Marsha Lewis, Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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