March 13, 2018

AZ Business Magazine

Destroy Pancreatic Cancer gives $1 million to TGen

Destroy Pancreatic Cancer, an Atlanta-based non-profit dedicated to finding better treatments for the most deadly of all cancers, is donating $1 million for a unique pancreatic cancer clinical trial designed by the non-profit Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

Destroy Pancreatic Cancer was founded by Georgia businessman John Couvillon, who had survived melanoma and brain tumors, before succumbing last year to pancreatic cancer. It was this third and most challenging diagnosis that spurred his advocacy for other patients facing serious disease.

“Stay positive, be grateful and love life,” was a daily mantra for Mr. Couvillon, who promised that he would do everything in his power to destroy pancreatic cancer.

“While he is no longer here with us, it was never lost on John how blessed he was to be able to pay it forward and help provide hope and better options for those battling this disease,” said Atlanta businessman Howard Young, Chair of the Board of Destroy Pancreatic Cancer. Young has survived pancreatic cancer for 15 years, a remarkable feat he attributes to the care he has received from Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, TGen Distinguished Professor and Physician-In-Chief.

Dr. Von Hoff, one of the world’s leading authorities on pancreatic cancer, designed the Destroy Pancreatic Cancer clinical trial at the Piedmont Cancer Institute in Atlanta, where the study initially will enroll up to 25 patients.

“This research represents a unified effort, funded by passionate people, who want to find a cure,” said Young, a beacon of hope for anyone diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When he was first diagnosed in 2002, he was told that he only had a 1 in 5 chance of surviving 6 months.

“Survivors need to lead the charge and fund these key research studies,” added Young, a Board Member of the TGen Foundation, and chair of its National Pancreatic Cancer Committee. “Where once there seemed little hope, we now are seeing success. With the mapping of the human genome, and the translational medicine borne out of that, we are seeing great opportunities to not only cure pancreatic cancer, but like dominos, find cures for other cancers, as well.”

The pancreas is an essential organ behind the stomach. It secretes enzymes that are key to digestion, and hormones that maintain stable blood-sugar levels.

Pancreatic cancer this year is expected to kill more than 44,000 Americans, making it the nation’s third leading cause of cancer-related death, following lung and colon cancers. In 2017, it surpassed breast cancer. Unlike many of the major cancers, in which the annual number of deaths remained stable in recent years, the number of patients succumbing to pancreatic cancer has increased by more than 10 percent in the past five years.

More than 60 percent of pancreatic cancer patients die within the first year of diagnosis. Because the disease exhibits no symptoms in its early stages, finding a means of early detection is a paramount goal. Fewer than 10 percent of patients survive for more than five years, the lowest survival rate of all major cancers. But with new treatments, these numbers are starting to improve.

More than 1 million people have died in the past two decades from pancreatic cancer, a statistic that Destroy Pancreatic Cancer maintains is not only tragic, but also unacceptable, which is why the organization’s goal is to fund advanced research that leads to earlier detection and improved treatment options.

TGen, an affiliate of City of Hope, is a world leader in the clinical development of novel therapeutics for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, including one of the current standard-of-care regimens for this disease — nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine. TGen is building on this success and currently is involved in 13 pancreatic cancer clinical programs.

“You must maintain hope and faith that you will get well,” Young counsels pancreatic cancer patients. “There are a lot of reasons for hope now, and this new clinical trial at Piedmont Cancer Institute is a primary example.”

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