Taking ‘purple’ strides toward curing a killer

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In today’s Gr8 Health, we look at how you can help take the next steps — truly— on fighting a particularly cruel form of cancer.

Some of the top researchers in pancreatic cancer work in Central Indiana, and they could use your help later this month. Dr. Murray Korc has spent much of his career, 30 years and counting, researching the disease.

“Now survival is 6 percent, which sounds horrible. But it’s twice as much as it was then,” he said.

Pancreatic cancer is far from the most common form of the disease, but it may be the most aggressive killer. According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer as a type is far down the list —11th — in number of new cancer cases each year, but it is third among all types in annual deaths.

Several high-profile cases have put the disease in the headlines in recent years.

Victims of the fast-acting menace have included local business giant Mel Simon, former IU and NCAA leader Myles Brand, Apple founder Steve Jobs, actor Patrick Swayzee, and actress Bonnie Franklin, who portrayed an Indianapolis sit-com mom in “One Day at a Time.”

Dr. Korc and colleagues at IU Health have made great strides in recent years. See success stories here.

Meanwhile, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network aims to raise money for continuing that kind of work.

PurpleStride is a fundraising 5k held in several cities including Indianapolis. Our version is coming up quickly — June 21. Organizers hope anyone and everyone will sign up to run.

The money raised will in part fuel the research that has already yielded some results, like confirmation of direct links to bad habits.

“We know that if we all threw away our cigarettes and ate the right kind of diet, with vegetables and greens and fruits, half of all pancreatic cancer would disappear,” Dr. Korc explained.

But that also means half the cases have other, still uncertain origins — a daunting truth that does not dampen Dr. Korc’s hopes at all. He feels we’ll see big breakthroughs soon.

“Well, I am an optimist,” Dr. Korc said brightly. “And 20 years ago I would have said 25 years. So now I say five years!”

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