Inova Schar Cancer Institute Accepting Participants in Early Detection Study for Pancreatic Cancer

Raymond Wadlow, MD, is an oncologist at Inova Schar Cancer Institute. He is board-certified in Medical Oncology and Internal Medicine and has a special interest in gastrointestinal oncology. 

If you are interested in participating in this study on pancreatic cancer, visit the Inova Saville Cancer Screening and Prevention Center to learn more.

The pancreas is a flat, pear-shaped gland located behind the stomach. It aids in digestion and the regulation of blood sugar. Pancreatic cancer remains an elusive but deadly disease that is incredibly difficult to diagnose in the early stages.

Pancreatic cancer is the seventh leading cause of cancer death worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 60,430 adults (31,950 men and 28,480 women) will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States and more than 48,000 people will die from the disease in 2021. While the number of deaths from other cancers is declining, the incidence of and death rate for pancreatic cancer is increasing. The five-year survival rate after a diagnosis with pancreatic cancer is less than 5%.

According to Raymond Wadlow, M.D., in Medical Oncology at Inova Schar Cancer Institute, pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose, because early stages of the disease produce vague symptoms, like diarrhea and abdominal cramping, or may be asymptomatic. In addition, the medical community lacks cost-effective, early screening tests, like a colonoscopy for colon cancer or mammography for breast cancer. The pancreas is also buried deep within the body behind several organs, making it difficult to feel for tumors. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer has often spread beyond the pancreas.

Inova Saville Cancer Screening and Prevention Center is the only cancer screening and prevention program in the DC-metro area offering a coordinated approach for cancer prevention for people at both average risk and high risk of developing cancer.

“Inova is so proud to provide a home for cancer screening and prevention where we can advocate for people at all levels of cancer risk by eliminating barriers and maximizing each person’s health and well-being,” said Rebecca Kaltman, M.D., executive director of the Saville Center.

On February 7, the Inova Saville Cancer Screening and Prevention Center was approved by the Pancreatic Cancer Early Detection (PRECEDE) Consortium to begin accepting participants.

The PRECEDE Consortium is a clinical trial that aims to increase the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer patients from 5% to 50% within the next 10 years. The PRECEDE Consortium will share new protocols and discoveries obtained from the technology-rich, data-driven research to improve early detection, screening, risk modeling and prevention for those with an inherited genetic risk for pancreatic cancer.

“There was a need to establish an organization in which leading institutions prioritized collaboration through data sharing,” said Wadlow. “We think this is the best way to make progress quickly.”

To accomplish this goal, PRECEDE will assemble the largest ever group of individuals at risk for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common form of pancreatic cancer.

The study is accepting men and women, 18 years or older, who fit one or more of the following criteria: family members with PDAC; a genetic variant that increases the risk for PDAC or a personal history of PDAC.

“We want to identify people at increased risk of pancreatic cancer so that we can counsel them on strategies to reduce their risk, discuss screening tests and learn how to prevent or detect the disease at an early stage when still curable,” said Wadlow. “We believe this is the best approach for learning how pancreatic cancer develops in the general population and reducing the devastation the disease brings to so many families.”

The participants will be seen by their healthcare team every 6 to 12 months to evaluate early detection approaches to prevent disease progression. Participants will provide blood and biological samples, like saliva and cheek swabs, once or twice a year. In addition, participants may be recommended to undergo periodic screening tests, like MRI and endoscopic ultrasound.

The study aims to recruit 10,000 participants over 10 years. It has been open for two years at 27 institutions across the United States, as well as Canada, Israel, Italy and Spain. To date, PRECEDE has recruited about 2,000 participants.

If you are interested in joining the PRECEDE study at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, contact Stephanie Van Bebber, senior director of the Clinical Trials Office, at 571-472-0213.

Potential participants in PRECEDE will be seen by Wadlow and his team, which include genetic counselors, to evaluate a person’s family history and genetic risk factors. Participants will have access to oncology-certified dieticians and screening techniques to detect the disease at early stages.

“We need to get the word out that screening people with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer appears to save lives,” said Wadlow. “PRECEDE will help us make substantial progress in preventing and treating this very deadly disease.”

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