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Pancreatic cancer drug combination shows promise

PHOENIX -- A recent study reveals a new combination of drugs is showing promise in fighting pancreatic cancer.

Led by Scottsdale Healthcare and Translations Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, the study reveals that pancreatic cancer patients who used both Gemcitabine and Abraxane were 59 percent more likely to increase their survival by over a year, compared to those who received only Gemcitabine. According to the same study, twice as many of the patients lived for more than two years.

Abraxane has been available for use in breast and lung cancer cases. The FDA recently approved it for use against pancreatic cancer.

Researchers still are not sure exactly how Abraxane works, but they say it has a protein that gets inside tumors and may act as a "Trojan Horse" to release chemotherapy and kill cancer cells.

Valley resident Pam Ryan believes it is working for her.

"On Nov. 10, 2012, I was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to my liver," Ryan explained.

One doctor didn't give her much hope.

"The oncologist at the diagnosing hospital was pulling my family out into the hall and saying that I might only have three weeks," said Ryan. "This was November of 2012, and now I'm talking to you in October of 2013."

Ryan was one of the patients in the study and says she is now living life to the fullest.

"I feel great. I did my yoga class this morning, and I play golf," Ryan said.

She even got a rare, but lucky, hole-in-one back on June 17.

"I would say that it [the drug combination] has definitely extended my life, and I really appreciate that," she said.

The study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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