At sixteen year old, Michael Rofle lost his life to pancreatic cancer just two weeks after he was diagnosed. Now the President and co-founder of the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, Michael’s son, Jim, warns that early detection is really the only shot you have to beat the disease. In contrast to breast, prostate, and colon cancer, which all have five year survival rates over 90%, pancreatic cancer is somewhere around 5-7%. This is because it is rarely detected until it has spread outside the primary site of the cancer, or metastasized.
The hope is that a test will be created to aid in early detection. Currently, pancreatic screening is rare and expensive. It is rarely used unless a patient has an extensive family history of pancreatic cancer.
Jessica Stoll, certified genetic counselor and Assistant Director of the Gastrointestinal Center Risk and Prevention Clinic at the University of Chicago, uses genetic testing with her patients to screen for genetic mutations. Certain mutations can indicate a predisposition to pancreatic cancer. Although, the efficacy of these tests are still be debated.
Jim Rofle explains research into a pancreatic cancer screening test relies primarily on private donations. Government funding is hard to come by. “Their argument is show me your making progress and I’ll fund you. Well, I can’t show you progress unless I have funding, so it’s really backwards,” concludes Rofle.
- Jim Rolfe, President and co-founder, Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation
- Jessica Stoll, certified genetic counselor and Assistant Director, Gastrointestinal Center Risk and Prevention Clinic, University of Chicago Medicine