Advocates join together to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer

When scientists and advocates join forces, good things can happen. Dr. Channing Der, Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Pharmacology and UNC Lineberger faculty member, and Lori Matteson, a Raleigh pancreatic cancer survivor and advocate, joined over 600 other pancreatic cancer advocates and family members on a visit to Washington, DC.

The June 25-26 Advocacy Days sponsored by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, brought together pancreatic cancer patients and family members and scientists to the halls of Congress to urge their support for the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act. (S.362/H.R. 733) Dr. Der has received research funding from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a nonprofit organization that through research grants, patient support, community outreach and advocacy are focused on a cure for pancreatic cancer.  His research is centered on the identification and development of pharmacologic approaches for correcting the defect in the KRAS oncogene found mutated in nearly all pancreatic cancers.  He is also on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Lustgarten Foundation, the second major US foundation focused entirely on pancreatic cancer research.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is the driving force to get the Act to the floors of the Senate and House. This year marked the sixth year of their efforts. The Act calls for a strategic plan to address pancreatic cancer, fund pilot research projects, create pancreatic cancer centers of excellence and to increase awareness of the disease among physicians and the public.

Dr. Der says, “It was a remarkable event to participate in. I was really inspired by Lori and her fellow NC advocates. The interaction with survivors was very touching and motivating. Their passion, drive and dedication are amazing, and their appreciation and support for research was also incredible. This group is determined, with the goal of doubling the pancreatic cancer survival rate by 2020.”

Lori Matteson, explains, “It is my hope that our efforts will result in the passing of critical legislation that will bring the focus that this devastating disease needs. Only 6 percent of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive for more than five years.  The survival rates for pancreatic cancer have not improved significantly over the past 40 years, and there are no early detection tools or effective treatments. 

“Somehow I have defied the odds, and I am still here 8 years after my pancreatic cancer diagnosis.  As a survivor, I feel it is my duty to speak for those who could not be in DC, for so many who have not survived, and for those who WILL NOT survive in the future---unless a change is made.”

She says, “For me, the most memorable part of the experience was seeing the waves of purple-clad advocates hitting “the Hill,” like a wave of change coming over Washington.”

Learn more about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and their efforts.