More than 2 decades later, new technologies help Lustgarten Foundation learn more about pancreatic cancer

NEW YORK – More than 20 years ago, Lustgarten Foundation launched so people can learn more about fighting pancreatic cancer.

With 100 percent of every dollar raised dedicated to that goal, one can boast of incredible progress.

The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in the late 1990s for 51-year-old Marc Lustgarten, vice president of Cablevision, changed the course of the disease, says Dr. David Tuveson, chief scientist at Lustgarten.

“We didn’t know much about pancreatic cancer. There were very few people who researched this disease,” Tuveson said.

Not anymore.

“Now is the most exciting time in our field and I feel that the foundation has played an important catalytic role in raising awareness, involving scientists and doctors and really connecting with the community,” Tuveson continued.

Prevention requires the participation of patients, because a family history, obesity, early-onset diabetes and smoking – all promote disease. Early detection means finding a tumor the size of a grain of rice.

“When you scan someone, they breathe and the rest of their body shakes. It sounds stupid, but we can’t see that level of anatomical detail yet,” Tuveson said.

Molecular imaging could make a big difference, as scientists are working to develop this technology.

In addition, better therapies are on the way, Tuveson says. He points to the work that is taking place in the organoid plant in the Cold Spring Harbor laboratory.

“One of the methods we’ve developed through the organization is that we can take a small sample of a patient’s tumor and cultivate it,” he said.

Then grow it in an incubator and use a high-tech pharmacy that distributes more than 100 drugs at once.

“We’re testing: What would an organoid say? Is one drug better than another?” Tuveson explained.

Not just existing drugs, but new ones as well.

“Finally, we now have a network of clinical trials initiated by Dr. Elizabeth Jaffe at Johns Hopkins,” Tuveson said. “So we can determine next week if we’re on the right track, not next month or next year.”

Tuveson said he sees a future in which we need more doctors treating patients who can say, “I survived pancreatic cancer, thanks to the work of the Lustgarten Foundation.”

CBS2 News is the proud media sponsor of the Lustgarten Foundation’s New York Pancreas Exploration Walk held this Sunday, April 10 at Pier 84. CLICK HERE for more information.

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