About Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is on the rise. Deaths caused by pancreatic cancer surpassed breast cancer a few years ago, and pancreatic cancer remains on track to overtake colorectal cancer to move to the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States this year.*

The number of cases of pancreatic cancer is also increasing globally. In 2018, approximately 460,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer were reported.

Although advances in cancer treatments continue to grow, there is still a great need for new therapies. Promising new treatment options and ways to deliver these treatments more effectively are now under development.

Risk Factors Associated with Pancreatic Cancer**

Family History

Risk increases if a person has two or more first-degree relatives (parent, sibling or child) who have had the disease, a first-degree relative who developed pancreatic cancer before the age of 50, or an inherited genetic syndrome associated with pancreatic cancer. The risk increases if a greater number of family members are affected. Also, the risk of pancreatic cancer increases if there is a history of familial breast, ovarian or colon cancer, familial melanoma or hereditary pancreatitis. Approximately 10 percent of pancreatic cancer cases are related to a family history of the disease.


Pancreatic cancer is more likely to occur in people who have long-standing (over 5 years) diabetes.

Chronic Pancreatitis and Hereditary Pancreatitis

People with chronic pancreatitis have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Chronic pancreatitis is common in individuals who consume large amounts of alcohol for many years.

Hereditary pancreatitis causes recurrent episodes of inflammation of the pancreas that generally start by the time a person is 20 years old. The risk of developing pancreatic cancer is even higher in individuals who have hereditary pancreatitis.


Smoking is a significant risk factor and may cause about 20-30 percent of all exocrine pancreatic cancer cases. People who smoke cigarettes are 2 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than people who have never smoked.

Race (Ethnicity)

African-Americans have a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer compared to individuals of Asian, Hispanic or Caucasian descent. There is also a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer among Ashkenazi Jews, possibly due to a mutation involving the breast cancer (BRCA2) gene that is found in about 1 percent of individuals of this background.


The chance of developing pancreatic cancer increases with age. Most people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are over the age of 60.


Slightly more men are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer than women. This may be linked to higher smoking rates in men.


The link of diet and the development of pancreatic cancer is still unclear. A diet high in red and processed meats is thought to increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. A diet high in fruits and vegetables may decrease the risk.


Obese people have a 20 percent increased risk of developing the disease compared to people who are of normal weight. The risk is even higher in people who are obese during early adulthood. People with excessive abdominal fat may have an increased risk independent of general obesity.


Some research suggests a link between heavy alcohol consumption and pancreatic cancer. The risk of developing pancreatic cancer is higher in people who consume more than three alcoholic drinks daily compared to those who do not.


Research suggests that exposure to certain environmental chemicals and heavy metals may increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. These include beta-naphthylamine, benzidine, pesticides, asbestos, benzene and chlorinated hydrocarbons.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease and tooth loss appear to be linked to pancreatic cancer, even when controlling for other risk factors.

Early Warning Signs of Pancreatic Cancer***

Early pancreatic cancer may cause symptoms including:
  • Pain, usually in the abdomen or back
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes or both) with or without itching
  • Appetite loss
  • Nausea
  • Changes in stool
  • Pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas)
  • Recent-onset diabetes
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Depression

Stage III Locally Advanced Pancreatic Cancer and Clinical Trials

With stage III Locally Advanced Pancreatic Cancer, most tumors are unresectable, which means they are unable to be removed by surgery. Common stage III treatment choices are chemotherapy, radiation or both, with or without clinical trials.

Clinical trials are the only way for researchers to see if new treatments help people with pancreatic cancer. The FDA looks at information from successful clinical trials to decide if an experimental treatment should be approved for a specific disease.

The 2020 National Comprehensive Cancer Network Guidelines for Locally Advanced Pancreatic Cancer Guidelines indicates pancreatic cancer patients who participate in clinical research may have better outcomes. Every treatment available today was approved through a clinical trial.

About the TIGeR-PaC Clinical Trial

The TIGeR-PaC Study is enrolling people with Locally Advanced Pancreatic Cancer who have recently been diagnosed. The goal is to determine whether an investigational method of delivering a routine anticancer drug, known as chemotherapy, with a device called RenovoCath®, can reduce the chance of the cancer spreading and extend survival, while improving quality of life.

Unlike other treatments that are given intravenously or into a vein (known as systemic chemotherapy), with RenovoCath the drug is delivered directly into the pancreas via an artery. This is known as intraarterial administration and involves the placement of a thin tube (called a catheter) into the artery via a small incision made in the leg or groin. There is evidence that delivering chemotherapy via an artery close to the tumor is an effective method for shrinking or stabilizing certain types of cancer. Studies have shown that gemcitabine delivered directly to the pancreatic arteries using RenovoCath may be associated with more than half the patients living over two years.IV

* Gaduputi, V, Rawla, Prashanth, et al. “Epidemiology of Pancreatic Cancer: Global Trends, Etiology and Risk Factors.” World J Oncol. 2019 Feb; 10(1): 10–27.

** Pancreatic Cancer Action Netwok® Website. Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors.  www.pancan.org, accessed March 16, 2020.

*** Pancreatic Cancer Action Netwok® Website. Early Detection.  Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors.  www.pancan.org, accessed March 16, 2020.

IV Agah, Ramtin, Rosemurgy, Alexander. Safety Study of Targeted and Localized Intra-Arterial Delivery of Gemcitabine in Patients with Locally Advanced Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma, Journal of Pancreatic Cancer; Vol. 3, issue 1.