The location of the pancreas is what makes getting cancer there such a death sentence.
Because it is located deep in the stomach right in front of the spine cancer can grow for months before it is discovered. As early detection is by far the single best way to beat cancer, pancreatic cancer patients have a huge hill to climb.
Early symptoms of the disease are very subtle or completely absent. When symptoms do appear it is usually because the tumor has grown large enough to press on other parts of the body.
The pancreatic tumor pressing on nerves causes pain, on the intestines affects appetite and on the bile ducts causes jaundice or yellowing of the skin.
For most people, waiting for one of these symptoms to appear is too long.
Just 6% to 8% of patients live five years after diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. For some perspective on how bad that is, consider that pancreatic cancer is the only one of the top 10 cancers with a survival rate in the single digits.
If caught early, the survival rate is much higher. About 15% to 20% percent of people are able to do that and catch it before it spreads beyond the pancreas.
This allows for surgical removal of the pancreas and five-year survival rates of 20%, which isn't ideal but certainly better.
If there isn't a breakthrough for detecting and treating pancreatic cancer, it is virtually certain that it will become the second deadliest form of cancer, surpassing both breast and colorectal.
MabVax Therapeutics Holdings (MBVX) is a clinical-stage biotechnology company.
The company has discovered and is developing human antibody based products for the diagnosis and treatment of metastatic solid tumor cancers. It will have multiple applications, but it has the potential of being a game-changer for pancreatic cancer.