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Vaccine offers promise as post-surgery treatment for pancreatic cancer patients
Date:12/11/2012

surgery, such as the robotic type in which Shen specializes. Wake Forest Baptist is one of just a few centers around the country using robotic surgery to remove pancreatic tumors.

The benefit of robotic surgery is that it allows surgeons more dexterity in the abdomen even as the operation remains a minimally invasive procedure. As a result, Shen said, patients get out of the hospital sooner, and the faster recovery time allows them to more quickly start the chemotherapy they need to try to kill remaining cancer cells once the tumor is removed.

Shen, who has been at Wake Forest Baptist since 2000, has pursued not only the latest surgical techniques, but also clinical trials of drugs and therapies not yet on the market.

One of those trials could prove fruitful to Thorn.

The goal of multiple therapies is to eradicate cancer. Surgery removes the actual tumor while chemotherapy is aimed at destroying any cancer cells left in the body. Wake Forest Baptist is among several medical centers nationwide participating in a new clinical trial. And so, every two weeks along with her chemotherapy, Thorn receives a dose of medicine considered "immunotherapy."

Shen said the vaccine being given to Thorn is designed to make any pancreatic cancer cells "seem like a foreign body, not part of the patient's own body."

If the medicine works properly, Shen said, "the body will consider any pancreatic cancer cells not its own tissue type and cause a rejection of those cancer cells.''

Because pancreatic cancer cells are aggressive and frequently return after surgery and even chemo, the vaccine holds promise as another tool to increase a patient's odds of survival.

Although the surgery was difficult ("Mom said when Dr. Shen came out after nine hours he looked like he had been through a war,'' Thorn noted) and she continues to have bouts of nausea after eating, Thorn is positive about how things have turned out. She has lost weight, h
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SOURCE Wake Forest Baptist HealthWire
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