Today, the 13th annual National Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day, hosted by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), gathered 650 registered participants and pancreatic cancer advocates, including 110 pancreatic cancer survivors. The advocates – a nationwide group of survivors, caregivers, volunteers, healthcare professionals, researchers and other supporters – came to Capitol Hill to urge Congress to increase federal funding for cancer research.
The event kicked off with a special breakfast for pancreatic cancer survivors and was followed by keynote remarks, additional presentations, breakout sessions and a scientific panel discussion.
“We are fighting one of the world’s toughest cancers,” said Julie Fleshman, JD, MBA, president and CEO of PanCAN, addressing a ballroom packed with advocates during the opening session for the two-day event. “We must be bold. We must continue to be aggressive and reach our goals.”
Fleshman reflected on some of the organization’s earliest fundraising events: a golf tournament in Arizona, a tennis tournament in Rhode Island, a walk in Indiana. The people behind these events eventually made up PanCAN’s nationwide network of volunteers, which today includes 60 affiliates and community partners all across the nation.
“As we celebrate PanCAN’s 20th anniversary this year, it is hard to believe how far we have come,” Fleshman said. PanCAN’s year-long anniversary theme is “Moments Matter,” encompassing everything the organization works toward – advancing treatment and care to give patients and their families more moments together.
Keeping with the theme, a scientific panel discussion, “Accelerating Progress: Creating More Moments,” followed the opening session. The panel addressed recent and important moments for the pancreatic cancer community related to the latest advancements in the field.
“Part of the advances we’ve had in early detection is understanding what the risk factors are for pancreatic cancer,” said panelist Anirban Maitra, MBBS, a professor of pathology and translational molecular pathology at MD Anderson Cancer Center. As an example, Maitra talked about the small percentage of cases of hereditary pancreatic cancer, and how family members today can manage their risk. “That understanding wasn’t there 15 years ago.”
“I look at where we are now and the progress we have made as a sector and that over the last two decades we have more people living from this cancer,” said fellow panelist Richard Paulson, CEO at Ipsen North America. “We are doing a lot of work to help people understand their treatment options.”
Other panelists included Lola Fashoyin-Aje, MD, MPH, medical officer at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); Hilarie Koplow-McAdams, Vice Chair, PanCAN Board of Directors; and Vincent Picozzi, MD, physician in the division of hematology/oncology at Virginia Mason Medical Center.
Fleshman served as panel moderator, and video of the discussion was streamed on Facebook Live.
The advocates spent the remainder of the day attending breakout sessions covering emerging pancreatic cancer research and how to share their stories of how pancreatic cancer has personally impacted their lives. The advocates will meet with their members of Congress on Capitol Hill tomorrow, June 25.
Sharing closing advice with attendees, Fleshman said, “Every year, you are making more moments matter for patients and their families. What is your moment? The moment that you first decided to get involved with PanCAN? A special moment with your loved one? The most important thing you can do tomorrow when you meet with your member of Congress is share your story.”