JazzBEATS to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research

by Symptom Advice on April 20, 2012

In August 2011, Tom Patterson, a member of Congregation Beth Torah, lost his very brief and difficult battle with pancreatic cancer. In an effort to help others in Patterson’s family — his wife Wynne Begun and his children Mallary Smith and Michael Patterson — created PanCURE, an organization dedicated to increasing awareness of pancreatic cancer and raising funds for pancreatic cancer research in hopes of finding a cure for the disease.

PanCURE’s first fundraising event is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, April 29. JazzBEATS will provide a sampling of Kansas City’s world class jazz and trendy food scenes. The event will be held at the Just off Broadway Theatre, located at 3051 Central Street in Kansas City, Mo. Renowned jazz performers Hermon Mehari & Diverse, The Joe Cartwright & Duck Warner Duo and Millie Edwards & Michael Pagán will perform. Tickets are available at pan-cure.org or by calling 913-327-8245. Donations are also being accepted and can be made through the website or by calling 913-327-8245.Finding a cureBegun is heading this organization and the fundraiser because she firmly believes “somewhere right now there is researcher that is on the verge of changing the course of this disease.”

The average life expectancy after diagnosis with metastatic pancreatic cancer is just five to seven month. Begun said Patterson battled the disease for only five months before he lost the fight. During his illness and following his death eight months ago, she has learned a lot about Pancreatic Cancer. though pancreatic cancer is relatively rare, it remains the fourth leading cause of cancer death. of the 44,000 patients diagnosed this year, only 6 percent will live for five more years.

Begun said she has learned the reason pancreatic cancer is so deadly is because it is very hard to detect and there are currently no screening tests available. once most of the symptoms appear, the disease has progressed too far to be cured.

Some of what Begun has learned surprised her, especially the number of Jews who have been affected by the disease. Jews of Ashkenazi descent have a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer than the general population due to mutations that can occur within the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

Although many Jews are familiar with the relationship of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations to breast and ovarian cancer, scientists at Johns Hopkins are currently researching these genetic links to pancreatic cancer. They have found that Ashkenazi Jews who harbor a BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation may have a 10-fold increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. other hereditary syndromes can contribute to increased risk for pancreatic cancer as well. Those include hereditary pancreatitis, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, familial malignant melanoma and pancreatic cancer (FAMM-PC) and Lynch syndrome. In addition to the genetic syndromes life-style factors such as smoking and high fat in the diet appear to contribute to the development of the disease.

If a person has a first-degree relative with pancreatic cancer, his or her risk of developing the disease is much higher than the average person’s risk. The National Institutes of Health estimates that the risk of developing pancreatic cancer is increased four to five times for a person with one first-degree relative with pancreatic cancer, six to seven times for a person with two first-degree relatives, and 32 times for a person with three first-degree relatives with the disease.

Begun also discovered that the statistics for pancreatic cancer survival have not changed over the past 25 years while the breast cancer survival rate has steadily improved.

“The estimated five-year survival rate for breast cancer is about 88.5 percent, compared to the overall rate of 6 percent for pancreatic cancer patients. Significantly less research funding is available for early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer,” said Begun, who also serves as education and outreach coordinator of the local affiliate of Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Network. Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Network is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit whose mission is to provide education, advocacy and patient support for everyone diagnosed with the disease.

She noted that the overall incidence of pancreatic cancer is much lower than that of breast cancer — 44,000 cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed each year, compared to 215,000 breast cancer diagnoses. That means that there are fewer survivors to advocate for more funding.

“Early detection may be difficult because symptoms often do not appear until the disease is advanced. according to the Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Network, the search for the cure for pancreatic cancer is about where breast cancer was in the 1930s and the major deterrent is the low level of funding,” Begun said.

Patterson was a Jew by choice and did not carry the genetic mutation. But it’s still important to Begun that Jewish people become more aware of their risks for pancreatic cancer.

“The alarming statistics and the higher incidence in the Ashkenazi Jewish population means Jews must understand this disease and advocate for early detection, research and effective treatment options,” she said.

That’s also one reason Begun chose to raise funds to support pancreatic cancer research.

“Tom believed his only hope for survival was research. He truly felt that the key to this disease could be found. We lost Tom but we are committed to raising funds and creating hope for those who will face the diagnosis,” she said.

All the donations and net proceeds from PanCURE’s JazzBEATS fundraiser are being managed locally by the Jewish Community Foundation and will be forwarded to Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Network.

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