Hoag Turns the Tables on Pancreatic Cancer

Categories: Press Room

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., July 16, 2018 --- Among cancer types, pancreatic cancer is one of the most ruthless killers. Growing quietly, with no discernible symptoms, pancreatic cancer is usually undetected until it has grown too advanced to treat effectively. Unlike most cancers, pancreatic cancer kills nearly as many people each year as those who develop the disease, with a majority of people dying within the first eight months of detection.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian is one of the first hospitals in the nation to create a program targeted at finding pancreatic cancer early, when it might still be treatable.

The Anita Erickson Pancreatic Cancer Early Detection Program offers people who have a family history the opportunity to receive testing and aggressive surveillance in hopes of finding cancer early enough for treatment.

“Typically, pancreatic cancer is identified at a late stage, where medical intervention is very limited,” said Valentina Dalili-Shoaie, M.D., medical geneticist and one of the physician leaders for the early detection program. “But if we can proactively monitor these patients at higher risk and detect cancer at an early stage, we can successfully surgically remove the tumors and increase survival rates.”

Hoag’s team includes a geneticist, genetic counselors, gastroenterologists, GI surgeons and a clinical nurse navigator who work together to detect early stage pancreatic cancer through labs, imaging and diagnostic testing, as well as genetic counseling and testing.

As part of the program, participants submit their de-identified information to take part in a registry, shared by similar organizations in the nation. This database will help future clinicians to better understand this complex disease and how to effectively treat and manage it.

Nearly 10 percent of pancreatic cancers are hereditary. Other risk factors include obesity, smoking and diabetes.

Individuals with family members who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, or those with positive genetic test results in certain genes, may qualify for the program and the registry. For the future of medicine, this program represents invaluable information. For Dorothy Lasensky, 75, this program represents hope.

“I vaguely remember my mother telling me she had stomach issues, but she passed it off as ‘I ate too much,’” Dorothy recalls. “It came on so suddenly. By the time she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it had already metastasized to the liver. She died within 16 to 18 months.”

Genetically predisposed to the disease herself, Dorothy is grateful for the surveillance and attention she is receiving at Hoag and can’t help wonder what her mother’s fate would have been had such a program been around 30 years ago.

“She had been in good health. No diabetes, no heart problems,” Dorothy said. “When I found out I was a carrier, I immediately sent a note to my cousin and suggested she get tested.”

Dorothy qualified for the program under a rigorous set of criteria governed by an Institutional Review Board. Like others in the program, Dorothy started with a hereditary cancer assessment and testing, made possible by philanthropic funding through the estate of Anita Erickson.

Only five other hospitals in the nation offer a program like this, and none are in Southern California. Hoag developed this program to address the rising cases of pancreatic cancer in the United States.

“This is new territory for us, and with pancreatic cancer on the rise, this is an issue that cannot be ignored,” Dr. Dalili-Shoaie said. “Our goal is to get the upper hand on the disease.”

By identifying high-risk patients and offering them regular imaging and ultrasounds, Dr. Dalili-Shoaie says the program hopes to empower people with a family history of pancreatic cancer to take control of their health.

The program is part of Hoag’s larger commitment to encouraging early detection. Hoag offers similar surveillance and high-risk programs for breast and ovarian cancer, melanoma, skin cancer, head and neck cancers, lung cancer and prostate cancer.

ABOUT HOAG MEMORIAL HOSPITAL PRESBYTERIAN

Hoag is an approximately $1 billion nonprofit, regional health care delivery network in Orange County, California, that treats more than 30,000 inpatients and 425,000 outpatients annually. Hoag consists of two acute-care hospitals – Hoag Hospital Newport Beach, which opened in 1952, and Hoag Hospital Irvine, which opened in 2010 – in addition to eight health centers and eleven urgent care centers. Hoag is a designated Magnet® hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Hoag offers a comprehensive blend of health care services that includes five institutes providing specialized services in the following areas: cancer, heart and vascular, neurosciences, women’s health, and orthopedics through Hoag’s affiliate, Hoag Orthopedic Institute, which consists of an orthopedic hospital and two ambulatory surgical centers. In 2013, Hoag entered into an alliance with St. Joseph Health to further expand health care services in the Orange County community, known as St. Joseph Hoag Health. Hoag has been named one of the Best Regional Hospitals in the 2017 - 2018 U.S. News & World Report, andBecker’s Healthcare named Hoag as one of the 2018 “100 Great Hospitals in America” – a designation Hoag has received five times. For an unprecedented 22 years, residents of Orange County have chosen Hoag as one of the county’s best hospitals in a local newspaper survey. Visit www.hoag.org for more information.

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