Test in development can ease cancer concern

Dr. Max Schmidt talks with Peg Brand, who is taking a proactive approach against pancreatic cancer.

INDIANAPOLIS - Trina Beeman is one of nearly 1,000 patients a year attending the pancreatic cyst clinic at IU Health University Hospital. She is from Muncie and initially went to her doctor for back pain.

"It showed in the MRI of my back. That is how they found the cyst," Beeman said. "It's a worry of mine to have pancreatic cancer. I mean, I worry about it, you know."

But Beeman is an example of a patient that may benefit from a new test developed in the Simon Cancer Center labs, a biomarker that can determine with 100% accuracy if a cyst is benign, a relief unavailable to date.

"Really, the incidence of pancreatic cancer almost matches the mortality, so the disease is quite a frightening disease," said pancreatic researcher and surgeon Dr. Max Schmidt.

It's a reality well-known to Peg Brand. Her husband of 31 years, Myles Brand, had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer at diagnosis and he died 8 1/2 months later. She too is at risk because her father died of pancreatic cancer.

"One can either put one's head in the sand and take the ostrich approach and ignore it, or one can be proactive and get into a clinic," Brand said.

She is being proactive as a patient first - and as a widow - and actively working with Schmidt and his team to raise money to help expand their reach and research and to get patients into clinics early.

"I think the take home message here is there is hope. There are two windows of opportunity here, patients who have hereditary pancreatic cancer, patients where we have identified these pancreatic cysts and we really need to take advantage of that," Schmidt said.

He hopes to offer his benign biomarker tests in the next 4-6 months.

"I would like to be one of the first ones to line up," Beeman said.

In the meantime, the work continues to identify patients and find a cure for a cancer where its incidence and mortality rates are nearly the same.

Pancreatic Cyst and Cancer Early Detection Center