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Pancreas Cancer

Dr. Bender was posted 06/30/2010 10:43 pm by C'ville
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This is a good article. Dr.Anna Marsellis (patient)was a onco doctor.

Dr. Bender was posted on 09/10/2009 08:56 am by Kathy P. Here is an article I posted awhile ago 2007. At that time I believe Dr. Bender was at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Mpls.

Cancer Researcher Battles Her Own Cancer Dennis Douda Reporting

(WCCO) The fourth leading cancer killer in our country has frustrated researchers for decades. It is so deadly doctors have very little time to find treatments that work for each patient. However, a St. Paul woman's unique insights may help generations of patients to come.

On the surface, Anna Masellis has it all: great friends, a prestigious career in medical research and two teenagers she's very proud of. She also has a question. How much time is left to enjoy it all?

'It's almost a death sentence to someone who gets pancreatic cancer because the treatment options are so few, response rates very low,' Masellis said.

Standard cancer treatments are so feeble against it that 90 percent of patients die within a year. Median survival is just six months.

Methodist Hospital gastroenterologist Dr. Michael Shaw said part of the challenge is the pancreas' location, right in the middle of everything.

'There are a lot of very important blood vessels,' said Shaw. 'A major blood vessel into the liver and then the gall bladder and the bile ducts. It's not a good location to get a rapidly growing malignancy, that's for sure.'

By one account, fewer than 2 percent of pancreatic cancer patients are still alive 5 years after the diagnosis. And those dismal survival statistics lead many patients not to even treat their disease.

Masellis' oncologist thinks that's a mistake.

'Even if a cancer is not curable, we still can prolong life and improve quality of life,' Dr. Gail Bender said.

The twist in Masellis' story is that she is Dr. Masellis, a cancer research specialist. As much as she would like to live, by fighting pancreatic cancer in a whole new way, she would also like to learn.

'Can what I'm doing help other patients or help clinicians with gathering data,' said Masellis, 'or help researchers figure out something new about the disease.'

In Bender, Masellis found an oncologist willing to push the envelope with her. Together they devised a strategy they believe has never been tried before.

'We're going to be giving you Gemzar and Avastin intravenously; Carboplatnium and Taxatir, IP,' said Bender. IP means intra-peritoneal, Masellis explained by pointing to clear plastic tubes that lead into her abdomen under her rib cage. The tubes carry chemotherapy drugs inside her body so they can wash directly over tiny tumors that had spread.

Some of the drugs poison cancer cells. Others starve tumors by shrinking their blood supply. Bender likes to think of cancer as an opponent in a boxing ring.

'If you hit that boxer from multiple directions with multiple weapons that boxer is going to be less able to defend himself,' said Bender.

Masellis has endured two phases of chemo, endless blood sample draws, scans, tests and side-effects. She has also experienced hope. Last May, Masellis' family was told she had two months to live. It is a prognosis she ignored.

'Eight months and her disease is still on the run,' said Bender. 'It's going away.'

Masellis believes they are making history. She said new CT scans show the tumors in her abdomen are gone. The primary mass in her pancreas is shrinking, and cancer in her liver has nearly vanished. Masellis confessed she has no illusions about a cure, but is grateful the treatment strategy is buying her precious time.

Her next step is to host a seminar on what she has learned through the Pancreas Cancer Action Network.

( MMVII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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