FOX 47 - Health News

MADISON (WMSN) -- Until the late actor Patrick Swayze - pancreatic cancer awareness seemed under the radar.

It's the fourth deadliest type of cancer, mainly because there are little symptoms before diagnosis.

Recently - the FDA approved two new drugs to help treat one form of the disease.

"Pancreatic cancer in general does not have many survivors so its been a cancer without a voice," said Dr. Noelle LoConte, UW Medical Oncologist.

It's one of the few cancers where the survival rate hasn't improved in more than 30 years.

Dr. Noelle LoConte says there may be hope after the FDA approved two new drugs to treat pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, the part of the pancreas that secretes hormones.

The first is called Sutent (sunitinib).

"That drug works by impairing the cells from growing their own blood supply its a pill and helped shrink cancer and live long. The other drug is called Afinitor (everolimus). That drug basically impairs the way the cancer cells grow and survive," said Dr. LoConte.

"It gives people that opportunity to fight," said Tammy Andries, cancer survivor.

Tammy Andries is a 5 1/2 year survivor of the disease.

After experiencing kidney stones and back pain, doctors discovered she had a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, the same size as a grapefruit.

"Surgery was the only option I had available at that time. There's at least another option, out there it gives them hope it gives them a second chance at life," said Andries.

Doctor LoConte says the other, more deadly form of pancreatic cancer, called adenocarcinoma, still has no available treatment.

"Pancreas adenocarcinoma is a much more lethal type of cancer majority of patients who are diagnosed ultimately dies of the disease even if we catch it early enough to do surgery," said Dr. LoConte.

This is why Tammy and other members of the Madison Affiliate of the National Pancreatic Cancer Action Network will head to Washington June 14th to fight for more federal funding.

"Asking congress to approve increases to the budget and by extension national cancer institutes budget it is a big priority," said Barbara Karlen, Advocacy Coordinator.

Something Tammy hopes will happen, so there will be more survival stories like hers.

"Now my kids are 12, 14 and 10 and I've been able to see some of their milestones," said Tammy.

To find out how you can get involved in the Madison Affiliate of the National Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, click here.

FDA approves 2 drugs to treat pancreatic cancer

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