Pancreatic Cancer:
When Innovation is Urgent.

From the lab to the doctor’s office, the EVMS Leroy T. Canoles Jr. Cancer Research Center is helping pancreatic cancer patients — both in our community and around the globe. Our wide- ranging research aims to increase early detection rates and develop comprehensive new ways to treat pancreatic cancer.


  • Pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. By 2020, it’s estimated to be the second-leading cause.
  • Portsmouth and Suffolk are especially hard-hit by pancreatic cancer.
  • Pancreatic cancer affects all genders, ages and ethnicities.


Located behind the stomach, the pancreas has two important functions: To aid in digestion and to produce hormones that regulate blood sugar levels. Early cancer detection and treatment are often difficult, and prognosis is extremely poor. Yet funding for pancreatic cancer research lags significantly behind funding for breast, lung, colorectal and prostate cancer research. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer patients remains at only 6 percent, a dismal statistic that can only be improved by additional funding and innovative research.

Our community is particularly hard hit by pancreatic cancer. In two out of three Hampton Roads municipalities, death rates are higher than the national average.
Pancreatic cancer: When innovation is urgent.

Advancing research on an overlooked disease

Pancreatic cancer is not rare, but it is difficult to detect and diagnose correctly, largely because it progresses quickly without exhibiting clear symptoms. With few red flags to look for, EVMS’ goal of developing more accurate diagnostic tools and effective new drugs is critical.

Researchers at the EVMS Leroy T. Canoles Jr. Cancer Research Center approach this mission on several fronts. We’re searching for unique protein signatures — called biomarkers — that can serve as early indicators of pancreatic cancer. We’re studying signaling pathways that promote the development of pancreatic tumors, while trying to identify ways to stop these tumors from spreading. And although pancreatic cancer does have a genetic component, we’re also trying to increase the community’s awareness of other risk factors such as obesity, smoking and recent onset of diabetes.

Current projects include: 

  • Establishing new biomarkers as effective diagnostic and prognostic tools for pancreatic cancer.
  • Researching key proteins — K-Ras and SIAH — that drive pancreatic tumor growth, while also determining whether blocking molecular signaling pathways can stop tumors from forming and spreading. Dr. Amy Tang was the first local recipient of a Pancreatic Cancer Action Network-AACR grant for this research.
  • Discovering and developing biomarkers for neuroendocrine tumors, which will enhance our capability for early detection and help predict which therapies will work best. 

A dedicated, world-class team.

EVMS scientists are known for their groundbreaking work in the field of pancreatic cancer research. Not only are they committed to the discovery of new techniques, drugs and treatments, they’re also dedicated to educating our Hampton Roads community about this often-ignored cancer. Our interdisciplinary teams of lab researchers, radiologists, pathologists and surgeons hold advanced degrees and training from leading institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, the National Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania State University, UC-Berkeley, and Philipps-Universität in Germany. Our labs focus on a variety of approaches to combating pancreatic cancer and have attracted funding and support from respected institutions such as the American Association for Cancer Research, the National Cancer Institute, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation-Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes.

The treatment techniques for pancreatic cancer have significantly improved over the last decade. But more research into new, innovative therapies are critical in order to cure more patients with this dreaded disease.

“The treatment techniques for pancreatic cancer have significantly improved over the last decade. But more research into new, innovative therapies are critical in order to cure more patients with this dreaded disease.“

Roger R. Perry, MD
Robert L. Payne Jr. Professor of Surgery;
Chief, Division of Surgical Oncology

Join our team in the fight for hope.

Support EVMS in the fight against pancreatic cancer and you can make a real difference. You’ll help our team expand their research and
educational efforts — supporting our goal of achieving earlier diagnoses and more personalized treatment plans. Together, we believe we
can reduce the terrible effects of the disease on our friends and family.

To learn how you can help, visit or call the EVMS Office of Development at 757.965.8500.