The Vision of Progress: Double Pancreatic Cancer Survival by 2020

Creating a brighter future for those facing pancreatic cancer

As the national leader in the fight against pancreatic cancer, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network announced a bold initiative in February 2011, a vision of progress aimed at bettering the odds for everyone affected by the disease now and in the future: Double pancreatic cancer survival by 2020.

Survival for pancreatic cancer has always remained in the single digits. Today, the five-year relative survival rate remains at just 6 percent. A study by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, published in the prestigious journal Cancer Research, predicts that by 2020, pancreatic cancer will surpass breast and colorectal cancer to become the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.
We intend to double pancreatic cancer survival by 2020 and prevent this dire prediction from becoming reality by pressing ahead with our proven comprehensive approach to fighting the disease — advancing research, building and sustaining federal support, providing information and education for patients and families living with the disease, and raising awareness of the devastating impact of pancreatic cancer.
Once we hit our 2020 benchmark, we will move forward to continue increasing pancreatic cancer survival.

To track our progress toward fulfilling our 2020 goal, we assess four key metrics, or impact indicators:

A Statement from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network President and CEO

“We want to demonstrate to our supporters through measurable outcomes that we are making progress toward increasing survival for pancreatic cancer. We can’t wait until 2020 to see if we have been successful; we need to track these outcomes regularly to ensure that we are moving forward in our efforts.

“By employing our comprehensive and proven approach and focusing our efforts for maximum impact, we are confident that we will make real headway in increasing understanding of and treatment for this devastating disease. We are leveraging our power as a leader in the field to transform the country’s system for pancreatic cancer healthcare delivery and medical research.”

— Julie Fleshman, JD, MBA


Progress against these key metrics is achieved in four programmatic areas.


Scientific investigations play a pivotal role in furthering efforts to double pancreatic cancer survival.

We are working to build a robust pancreatic cancer research community through our grants program and other initiatives that further basic, translational and clinical research aimed at finding new, more effective approaches to detecting and treating pancreatic cancer. Our strategy is threefold: grow the number of scientists studying pancreatic cancer, increase the amount of research being conducted and encourage collaboration and mentorship among researchers to facilitate innovation and expedite scientific and medical progress.

Several measures of progress show that we are stepping up the pace of scientific research into pancreatic cancer.

charts-vop-nci-funded-investigators-2014 Since 2000, there has been a significant rise in the number of U.S. pancreatic cancer investigators funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest funder of medical research in the United States. The decrease following the peak in 2010 reflects a lack of growth in the overall NIH budget.


There has also been an increase in the overall number of U.S. pancreatic cancer investigators, including scientists receiving a grant from private organizations like the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, researchers with funding from the NCI, and investigators with funding from other parts of the NIH. Private funding is partially compensating for the drop in NCI funding since 2010. charts-vop-pc-investigators-2014


charts-vop-publications-2014 The number of peer-reviewed publications presenting the results of pancreatic cancer research since 2010 has grown as well.

Since the inception of our grants program in 2003, we have awarded 110 research grants totaling nearly $23 million. As we continue to fund important scientific investigation through our grants program and other initiatives, we expect to see more activity and more results in pancreatic cancer research.


Advocacy efforts are aimed at intensifying the national focus on pancreatic cancer and increasing federal research funding for the disease.

Through our aggressive advocacy, we have made it very clear to lawmakers that the pancreatic cancer community has strength, power and purpose. With an office in Washington, D.C., we educate our elected officials about pancreatic cancer and the need for more federal funding for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), so that scientists and healthcare professionals can accelerate the pace of pancreatic cancer research.

We also train volunteer advocates around the country to urge their Members of Congress to support our cause. Each year we hold an Advocacy Day that attracts hundreds of advocates to Capitol Hill to meet with their Members of Congress to deliver our message about the need for more federal resources for the fight against pancreatic cancer and engage on other legislative issues that could impact pancreatic cancer research and patients. We also monitor and provide comments to various federal agencies on any policies that impact pancreatic cancer research or patients, such as issues related to drug shortages, regulations on drug approvals, access to clinical trials, and more.

Our progress is evident. In 1999, the year of our founding, NCI funding for pancreatic cancer research was only $17 million. By 2010, NCI funding had grown to $96.7 million, and between 2010 and 2012, it increased by more than 8 percent, to $104.8 million, even though overall federal funding for medical research has been stagnant or decreasing. charts-vop-nci-funding-pc-research-2014

In January 2013, President Obama signed the landmark Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act into law, following five years of intense effort by our passionate advocates and volunteers. The Act requires the NCI to develop “scientific frameworks,” or strategic plans, for our nation’s deadliest cancers, starting with pancreatic and lung cancers. The “Scientific Framework for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma,” released ahead of schedule in March 2014, provides suggestions for how to move forward with four specific research initiatives that are important steps toward improving survival rates. These initiatives built upon an earlier NCI report incorporating key input from our organization. The NCI released the “Scientific Framework for Small Cell Lung Cancer” in July 2014 and is now charged with developing reports for other deadly cancers, defined as those with a five-year survival rate below 50 percent.

Also in 2014, our congressional champions formed the Congressional Caucus on the Deadliest Cancers to educate fellow Members of Congress about what must be done to combat pancreatic cancer and other deadly cancers.

Patient and Liaison Services (PALS)

Increasing pancreatic cancer clinical trial enrollment is key to treatment advances.

Extraordinary scientific advances have been made in the last few decades in the fight against pancreatic cancer. Translating these breakthroughs into clinical progress that will alter outcomes for those diagnosed depends largely on patients being willing to participate in clinical trials and physicians being willing to encourage this treatment option. Therefore, as part of our efforts to educate people about pancreatic cancer through our PALS program, we encourage all patients to consider clinical trials when exploring treatment options, both for their own potential benefit and to further clinical advancement.

The impact of clinical trial participation on survival is clear in children’s cancer outcomes overall. Experts estimate that more than 60 percent of children diagnosed with cancer are enrolled in clinical trials. While children’s cancers were virtually incurable 40 years ago, the current overall five-year survival rate for children with cancer is 83 percent.

charts-vop-clinical-trial-participation-2014 Our efforts to increase clinical trial participation have had an impact. Based on 2011 data, while only 3 percent of all adult cancer patients opt for treatment in clinical trials, more than 4.5 percent of adults with pancreatic cancer enroll in such studies, according to our tracking of patients enrolled in phase I, II or III pancreatic cancer-specific clinical trials. We plan to perform a similar analysis of 2014 clinical trial enrollment when the data is available.


It is also critical that an adequate number of high-quality clinical trials designed to meet the needs of the pancreatic cancer patient population are available to test new approaches to pancreatic cancer detection and therapy. Such trials often test novel treatments that have not been previously approved in any type of cancer.
We are seeing progress on this front, too. Since 2010, the number of clinical trials using novel treatments has increased, and the number of new trials using such treatments (those not open in the previous year) has grown as well.


As of 2014, we have served over 80,000 people through our PALS program. As we provide information and education to greater numbers of people, we expect to see more patients opting to participate in clinical trials.

Community Outreach

Event participation drives greater awareness and raises funds.

Our volunteer-driven events increase public awareness of pancreatic cancer and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, educate the community about the disease and create hope for a better tomorrow. They also help raise critical funds to support research and patient services.


charts-2020-co-event-participants Participation in our signature events has increased every year. Since 2009, our PurpleStride 5K runs and family-friendly walks and PurpleLight gatherings of people affected by pancreatic cancer have engaged some 270,000 participants from across the United States.


With your support, we can meet our goal of doubling pancreatic cancer survival by 2020. Pancreatic cancer is projected to move from the fourth to the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States by that same year. We cannot let this prediction come true, and we cannot allow pancreatic cancer survival to languish in the single digits any longer.

Now more than ever, we must work together to advance scientific research, ensure that federal dollars are in place to fund the best science, support patients and their families, and build awareness nationwide. Join the fight today.

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