Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Rare Visionary

Like many people, I was saddened to hear the news of Steve Jobs passing away last week after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is truly a rare cancer - a person has only about a one in 76 chance of developing it in his or her lifetime. But though its incidence is uncommon, it is one of the most deadly types of cancer. With a 95 percent mortality rate, pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

These survival rates are so poor because the disease is often not diagnosed until its later stages, as the few symptoms it exhibits don't usually appear early. Only five percent of pancreatic cancer patients survive five years after diagnosis.

But there is some hope, and we are making strides in understanding this disease. The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of the few institutions in the nation to hold a SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) in pancreatic cancer from the National Cancer Institute. Through this prestigious grant, we are examining new and innovative treatments developed here in our laboratories and developing them for use in our patient clinics. Our SPORE gives us a tremendous opportunity to make real progress in the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer.

That Mr. Jobs was able to fight this particular cancer as long as he did puts him in rare company. He was a visionary whose groundbreaking ideas changed the world we live in. I hope that the research we do at the Cancer Center will do the same - by eliminating cancer as a public health problem.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

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