Dr. Elizabeth Jaffee, a pancreatic cancer specialist at Johns Hopkins Medicine also highlighted the location of the patient’s metastases, or where the cancer had spread to. Metastases arose only in the patient’s lungs. Most pancreatic cancer patients have metastases in their liver that are more difficult to treat.
“I would like to see liver lesions go away,” Dr. Jaffee said.
Kathy Wilkes, the patient who was successfully treated, is 71 and lives in Ormond-by-the-Sea, Fla. It is too soon to know if the cancer will come roaring back.
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Ms. Wilkes’ cancer was severe.
“This lady had had all of the available treatments and was failing,” said Dr. Jarnagin, who did not treat Ms. Wilkes but reviewed her case. Usually, in such cases, the cancer has developed resistance to any additional treatments.
“For most in that situation the cancer is going to win — soon,” he said.
Ms. Wilkes first noticed symptoms that were later attributed to pancreatic cancer in 2015. She was tired, lethargic and had bouts of intense pain. At first, tumors did not appear on scans. But by early 2018, a tumor showed up — a 3.5-centimeter mass in the head of her pancreas.
She had chemotherapy followed by a grueling operation — the Whipple procedure — in which surgeons remove the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine, the gallbladder and the bile duct. Then she had more chemotherapy, followed by radiation and even more chemotherapy.
The cancer was gone from her pancreas, but nodules appeared in her lungs — metastases. The chemotherapy and radiation continued throughout 2018.
“I just went through with it. I certainly wasn’t ready to die,” Ms. Wilkes said. “I had this voice inside saying, ‘You can best this one.’”