Medical Minute: Fighting Pancreatic Cancer

By: Jennifer Matthews
By: Jennifer Matthews

It's another day at the hospital for Barbara Merrick and her husband, Ted. Barbara has advanced pancreatic cancer. She found out in December and was not expected to live to see spring.

"When I was diagnosed, I got real upset and all, but since I've been coming here taking chemo and on the drug, I've been doing real fine," Barbara says.

Dr. Emmanuel Zervos says Barbara is like many patients with pancreatic cancer. Surgery was not an option because the cancer had already spread

"We are desperate to find some way to improve their quality of life and their survival," says Dr. Emmanuel Zervos.

That way could be this drug, Tarceva.

"It induces cell death, and it prevents cells from dividing and proliferating as a normal cancer cell would."

For the study patients receive chemotherapy as well as Tarceva or a placebo.

"To see someone like Barbara and we have a number of patients in the trial that are doing better than average, offers us a lot of encouragement to continue to these types of trials and have something to offer our patients."

Barbara admits she didn't want treatment at first. Now that it seems to be working, she's glad her family talked her into it.

"Well, I'm hoping I'll live many more years and it will completely shrink."

For now, she's beating the odds and is thankful she's made it to spring.

For more information, contact:

Natalie Bayol
Tampa General Hospital

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