2 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R

CANCERSGI

Pancreatic

cancer poses a

1-in-76 lifetime

risk for most

people but

carries a

95-percent

mortality rate.

Gastrointestinal (GI) cancers are among the most deadly cancer types, and in some cases, some of the most difficult to treat. GI cancers include tumors of the colon, rectum, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, anus, gallbladder, liver and bile duct.

Some of these cancers are fairly common, while others are relatively rare. Aside from skin cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer in men and women and the second highest cause of cancer deaths in the United States. In 2012, approximately 143,000 Americans were diagnosed with the disease. Less common but more deadly, pancreatic cancer poses a 1-in-76 lifetime risk for most people but carries a 95-percent mortality rate.

To the scientists of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, any risk is too much. Through its Multidisciplinary GI Oncology Clinic, the center has become a leader in the research and treatment of GI cancers and through its recently launched GI Oncology Research and Patient Care Initiative, the center is expanding its efforts to become the national leader in this area.

Three types of GI cancer seem to be increasing in incidence.

B y J O S H T I L L ,

K I M B E R L E E B R O O K S AND

C H A N D L E R C A L D W E L L

95% MORTALITY

RATE

colon rectum stomach pancreas esophagus anus gallbladder liver bile duct

Pancreatic Cancer Pancreatic cancer ranks around

ninth among incidences of cancer in the United States and is the fourth-lead-

ing cause of cancer death. Survival rates for pancreatic cancer are poor in large part because of late diag- nosis the few symptoms the cancer exhibits rarely appear early, and it frequently isn t caught until its later stages. Additionally, doctors are not entirely certain of the risk factors that lead to the disease.

We know of some risk factors, such as smoking, excessive alcohol use and obesity, but these modifiable

lifestyle factors don t allow us to identify high-risk groups, says James Posey, M.D., a UAB gastroin- testinal oncologist and Cancer Center scientist. Our ability to diagnose pancreatic cancer in its early stages depends on a better understanding of the disease pro- cess so that we can identify more specific high-risk groups and screen them for the disease.

To more effectively treat the disease, the Cancer Center is conducting a variety of clinical trials, many connected with the center s pancreatic cancer SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) grant. This prestigious grant one of only three in the coun-

RATES ON THE RISE: