The UCLA Agi Hirshberg Center for Pancreatic Diseases continues to be one of the nation’s leading institutions for pancreatic cancer research, diagnosis, and treatment thanks to funding from the Hirshberg Foundation and our supporters. As we celebrated our 25 years of progress, we were elated to see the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer jump to 12 percent, a huge increase from the five-percent five-year survival rate of 1997, when we began. It is thanks to our fundraising events and our donors that we have been able to advance research, improve patient outcomes, and take these crucial steps towards a cancer-free future.
Each year, UCLA provides the Hirshberg Foundation with a detailed report of the progress that is possible thanks to our partnership. Below are updates on the important work taking place at UCLA.
UCLA Agi Hirshberg Center for Pancreatic Diseases
The Hirshberg Center is moving to a brand-new space on the top floor of 100 Medical Plaza on the UCLA campus. With state-of-the-art accommodations for patients and their loved ones, this larger space will be optimized to provide the uncompromising care the center is known for. Overseeing the development of this incredible space as the new Director of the UCLA Agi Hirshberg Center for Pancreatic Diseases, Dr. Timothy Donahue. The new space will unite the Integrated Practice Unit’s (IPU) team of specialists under one roof for enhanced collaboration among different departments and care areas. Currently all IPU pancreatic cancer patients undergo genetic testing, allowing the team to tailor treatment with new drugs that can target identified genetic alterations. Input from multiple disciplines on each patient’s case allows clinicians to deliver exceptional comprehensive care that is disease- and patient-specific. This new location will provide a beautiful healing space for patients to receive world-class care.
Nutrition for Safer Surgeries
Nutrition for Safer Surgeries is a new program at UCLA funded by the Hirshberg Foundation. Developed by Shelby Yaceczko, MS, RDN-AP, CNSC, CSSD, an advanced practice dietician at UCLA and speaker at our 17th Annual Hirshberg Symposium on Pancreatic Cancer, the program provides early nutrition assessment and intervention for any patient with a new or existing gastrointestinal cancer diagnosis, with a special focus on pancreatic cancer. Medical nutrition therapy services can prevent or correct nutritional deficiencies, enhance quality of life during cancer treatment, and minimize treatment’s side effects. Research has shown that perioperative nutrition evaluation and optimization are essential to the success of pancreatic cancer surgery and result in decreased morbidities and mortalities. A member of the IPU, Yaceczko consults with patients before surgery to improve surgical outcomes.
Robotic Surgery at UCLA
A 2016 Seed Grant recipient, Mark Girgis, MD, continues to advance robotic surgery at UCLA. Dr. Girgis, Director of Robotic Surgery and Assistant Professor of Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has helped robotic surgery gain momentum in the treatment of pancreatic disease. The minimally invasive technique improves long-term recovery prospects due to decreased healing time which allows patients to begin post-surgery chemotherapy sooner. The robotic surgery expertise of Dr. Girgis and his team enables them to expand patient populations eligible for surgery, regardless of complications and disease stage. The popularity of robotic surgery is on the rise with both patients and surgeons, and we are optimistic that this treatment option will improve patient care.
Clinical Trials for Treatment
Clinical trials are a crucial step in the development of effective therapies for pancreatic cancer. Many patients also benefit from participation in a clinical trial as part of the treatment. Patients seen through the Hirshberg Center’s IPU have access to an array of treatment options including the 19 clinical trials currently in progress at UCLA. Plus, the UC Pancreatic Cancer Consortium is currently running over 46 clinical trials focused on pancreatic cancer. These clinical trials not only help advance understanding of this disease, but they also offer patients and their families hope for better treatment options. The Hirshberg Center’s vast offerings of clinical trials for promising treatments put it at the forefront of pioneering translational research.
The Hirshberg Foundation’s partnership with UCLA has created a premiere pancreatic cancer center with cutting-edge research and world-class care that draws patients from across the country. Together we are making progress toward improved treatments, outcomes, and quality of life for patients with pancreatic cancer. We are hopeful that we can watch research progress accelerate towards a cancer-free future.