Dr. Elizabeth Jaffee, pancreatic cancer specialist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, also pointed to the location of the patient’s metastases, or where the cancer had spread. Metastases appeared only in the patient’s lungs. Most patients with pancreatic cancer have liver metastases that are more difficult to treat.
“I would like to see the liver damage go away,” Dr. Jaffee said.
Kathy Wilkes, the patient who was successfully treated, is 71 and lives in Ormond-by-the-Sea, Florida. It is too early to know if the cancer will come back with a vengeance.
New developments in cancer research
Progress on the ground. In recent years, advances in research have changed the way cancer is treated. Here are some recent updates:
Mrs. Wilkes’ cancer was serious.
“This lady had had every treatment available and was failing,” said Dr Jarnagin, who did not treat Ms Wilkes but did review her case. Usually, in such cases, the cancer has developed resistance to further treatment.
“For most in this situation, cancer is going to win – soon,” he said.
Ms Wilkes first noticed symptoms that were later attributed to pancreatic cancer in 2015. She was tired, lethargic and had bouts of severe pain. At first, the tumors didn’t show up on the scans. But in early 2018, a tumor appeared – a 3.5 centimeter lump in the head of his pancreas.
She underwent chemotherapy followed by a grueling operation – the Whipple procedure – in which surgeons remove the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine, the gallbladder and the common bile duct. Then she had more chemotherapy, followed by radiation and more chemotherapy.
The cancer had disappeared from his pancreas, but nodules appeared in his lungs – metastases. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy continued throughout 2018.
“I just went through it. I was definitely not ready to die,” Ms Wilkes said. “I had this voice inside that said, ‘You can beat this one. “”